Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cooking: Gravy

Three Ways to Make Gravy. One Post. What could be more efficient? I'm going to arrange the 3 gravies in order by effort level and the order I learned to make them. Coincidentally, those orders are the same. Also please note that these are not recipes, per se, but techniques. Cooking is an art, not a science, remember?

*** Sausage/Cream/Mushroom Gravy ***

This is my mother's gravy. Cheap, quick, and easy for a super fast (30 minutes!) dinner that is pure comfort food.

In a large skillet, place Sweet Italian Sausage and enough water to half cover it. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat. When the liquid is almost gone, prick the sausage, allow it to brown, and turn it over. Allow the 2nd side to brown, and remove from the pan. There should be a little brown smudge on the bottom of your pan if you did it right. Add a few tablespoons of water to the pan and stir to bring up the yummy goodness. If you like, now would be the time to add a quartered, thinly sliced onion and just a little bit of oil. Cook the onions until soft. Finally, add a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup to the pan. Thin with a little milk if it is too thick, and cook until smooth and yummy.

Serve with the sausage, rice or noodles, and the veggie of your preference (we like corn with this).

*** Quick (But Occasionally Lumpy) Gravy ***

This is also my mother's gravy. While I have only seen her make it for Thanksgiving, I have tried it myself and find that it works well for chicken and pork as well as turkey.

Over low heat, in a small saucepan, warm meat drippings if they have cooled. In a separate bowl, cup, or whatever (I like my big Pyrex measuring cup, because it has a spout. You'll see why in a minute.), mix a few tablespoons of flour with about a cup of cold water, milk, or a combination of both, depending on if you want a gravy-gravy or a cream-gravy. Stir it up as well as you can, scraping the bottom. It should be thin and watery. Pour (see why a spout helps?) the slurry into the pan with the drippings slowly. I like to pour it through a sieve, slotted spoon, or tines of a dinner fork to catch any lumps. The chance of lumps increases as you get to the bottom of the liquid. Raise the heat under the saucepan to medium and bring almost to a boil. The gravy will thicken as it cooks. If it gets too thick, you can thin it out again. A little salt and pepper to taste, and you're done!

*** Never-Lumpy Gravy ***

This is Mr. Farmer's gravy. It starts out with a roux (pronounced "roo"), which is a fancy French word that means "fat and flour". Yeah, we're making elementary school paste, and then we're eating it. It is delicious.

You make the roux by mixing equal parts fat and flour in a saucepan over medium heat until completely combined. Then you add liquid (water, stock, or milk) a few tablespoons at a time, and keep stirring to combine. It is a LOT of stirring. Each time you add more liquid, you increase the temperature slightly. Do not add the next bit of liquid or increase the temperature again until the entire mass is the same consistency. Never stop stirring, and do not turn your back on it! Repeat until your gravy is just slightly thinner than you want your final product to be. Turn the heat back to Low. Add salt, pepper, and spices to taste, and keep stirring until desired thickness is achieved. Remove from heat immediately.

Leftover gravy of this type will thicken as it cools, but probably will NOT need thinning as it will become thinner when you reheat it. And it won't have lumps if you keep stirring and don't add the liquid too quickly. I promise.

The 2010 Christmas Smoked Turkey
But wait... there's more...

*** Bonus Cheese Sauce ***

If you use the directions above, and the fat is butter, and the liquid is milk and/or cream, you can make an amazing cream sauce. Season with a touch of garlic and add Parmesan cheese at the end and you have Alfredo sauce! With a bit of horseradish, it becomes a great cream sauce for veggies. And of course, with Colby, Cheddar, or Monterrey Jack cheese you get a topping for baked mac and cheese that is to die for.


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