Gravy Basics

Here I want to step outside the breakfast realm I have been blogging in for a minute to review some gravy basics.

With no pictures. Sorry. So in lieu of gravy pictures I will include some recent holiday shots.

This was a trip to South Coast Plaza a couple of weeks ago.
This was a trip to South Coast Plaza a couple of weeks ago.

Gravy making is the last thing I make before everyone sits down to eat and I usually dont think to shoot photos then. I would have to hire one of my kids to do it.

Lets say you have fried or roasted some meat. Whether it is sausage, chicken or prime rib. Roast beef, fish or pork chops. I always start my gravy with the stuck on icky-wonderful bits on the bottom of the pan.

Is there any leftover oil or fat in the pan? If so, how much? You want about 3 tablespoons worth. Too little and you can add some butter to it. Too much and you should drain it off.

Lets pretend this is a pan of roux
Lets pretend this is a pan of roux

So lets say you are making gravy out of a holiday prime rib. Lets also say you had it cooking in a roaster with some onions and carrots laying in the bottom to add to the gravy’s flavor later on. Now the meat is done and  you put it on a platter, covered with foil while you check and see how much fat is in the bottom of the pan and drain off any excess, or add a tbsp. or 2 of butter to make enough.

Now, you put this pan with the fat on the stove top. You turn on  the burner, or if the pan is big enough, burners, plural. You are going to heat the fat and add flour to it to make a roux. Use equal amounts of flour to fat. 3 tbsp. of fat and 3 tbsp flour. Using more fat? Use more flour. Sprinkle the flour in and, using a whisk or wooden spoon, stir it together until it looks pasty and browning. If it looks too dry and clumpy add a little more butter or olive oil. If it is too bubbly and liquid, add a little more flour.

Okay, now you have your roux and your stickem bits from the bottom of the pan. Now what?

Your liquids, that’s what.

You can start with a little wine, red with beef, pork or lamb, white with chicken. It is strickly optional. Pour a little into the hot skillet and let it cook down to a syrup.

With the heat on, you slowly add your other liquid, whisking the whole time. For prime rib I would use beef broth. For chicken gravy I would use, you can guess, right? chicken broth. For sausage gravy to go on some biscuits I would use milk. Or cream, but that is pretty thick. In a pinch you could use water.

Here is a pan of gravy...
Here is a pan of gravy…

Stir this in and whisk and heat until it starts bubbling and thickening. Add about 2 cups of the liquid and gauge from there if it needs more. Only add more if it is getting too thick.

Add salt and pepper. Taste first, you don’t need it too salty.

Now about gravy separators; I don’t have one. If you pour the fat off before hand, you should have a nice amount of fat in the gravy. But if you let your gravy sit and it develops a layer of fat on the top, feel free to skim it off with a spoon.

“What if my gravy is still too thin? How do I thicken it?”

You have several options here. You can make more roux in a little nonstick pan. Melt some butter, add equal parts flour and whisk together over heat until browning. Add to hot bubbly gravy, whisking until mixed.

Or my grandma used to shake some flour and water in a lidded cup, shaking the dickens out of it, then slowly pour it into the bubbly gravy, whisking it in.

Or you could use tapioca flour, diluted with some water. Or this thing called ‘Wondera’ which is to thicken gravy with.

Oh wait! I just remembered an old trick I have yet to try but will pass it on. Instead of a roux, use a piece of pie crust! If you have some refrigerated or frozen pie crust laying about, break off some and heat it in your gravy skillet before adding the liquid, or melt it up in a skillet to add to your too thin gravy. I imagine this is pie crust not yet rolled out. Hmm.

If I am making sausage gravy, I just keep the sausage in the pan with its fat, sprinkle flour over the whole thing, stir until thick and gooey, then add the milk. Once thick and bubbly, its time to pour over biscuits.

Lets pretend this train is rushing us to a plate of biscuits and gravy!
Lets pretend this train is rushing us to a plate of biscuits and gravy!

Oh man, I am hungry! And I have no biscuits or gravy lying around. Sigh. Maybe I better stop blogging and start some breakfast.

Hope this helps you out in your time of gravy need. If you have any tips to include here, by all means, send them my way.

My new snowflake cookie cutters.
My new snowflake cookie cutters.

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