Sunday, October 31, 2010

Betty Does The Classics: Gravy From a Roux

Ah! Turkey Day is coming. Are you ready? Are you flipping through your food magazines, picking out a new way to make sweet potatoes? the perfect pumpkin pie? Worried that you will have a house full of people and nothing edible to feed them other than the veggie tray? Is your mother-in-law coming to your house this year and you've never cooked for her before?

Thankfully (pardon the pun), the actual mechanics of the traditional turkey dinner are easy to master. And most of a big meal really just comes down to planning ahead...the rest is a good bottle of wine.

Today, we'll cover making a basic gravy from broth using a roux (a combination of butter and flour cooked together). This is not the only way to make a good gravy, I should mention. My mother has always made her plate-licking-it's-so-good gravy with a slurry (combination of cold water and cornstarch that thickens a liquid when it comes to a boil).

I just prefer using a roux. Perhaps because when I was in college a million years ago, the chef taught me how to make gravy for 500 people this way (yes, I was in the college kitchen all those many years ago too). And I got pretty good at it (no one died or complained). I remember being impressed that even with the teeny-tiny operating budget Chef Paul had to work with, he didn't skimp on the gravy and use powdered mix (gag me).

Tie on an apron, Gretel, and let's get started. While I am going to walk you through this with a chicken, the principals work with turkeys and beef as well.
the stuff you DON'T want
in the gravy

the stuff you DO want
in the gravy
First, you'll need broth that is hot. I usually pull my bird and drain off the juices through a sieve or colander, then cover the meat with foil. This allows the meat to properly rest while you get the gravy on. Don't worry, you're bird won't get cold while you are doing this. Straining the juice removes all the bits and chunkies, so this isn't the same as pan gravy (which is made when you remove the bird from it's original pan and make the gravy from the drippings and bits that have stuck to the pan).

In a saucepan (and I prefer a larger one because it gives more room to work with), melt 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) of butter. Yes, you can make this with margarine but it seriously won't taste as good. I've also heard you can make it with motor oil but that doesn't mean you should. (hmmm, motor oil=margarine? ....)

Also, if you are, in fact, feeding the 101st, you'll need more butter and flour. This is enough gravy to make 4+ cups.

Melt the butter, stirring with a whisk. To this add a scant 1/2 cup of all purpose flour, stirring all the time. Continue to cook this over a medium heat. You are removing the raw taste of the flour (just like in pate choux) and defining what color the gravy will be--meaning, if you want your gravy browner, as for beef, cook the roux a little longer. For chicken/turkey gravy, this isn't necessary. Adjust the heat if all seems to be cooking to fast (gravy shouldn't be black).

The roux will be in clumps
before adding the broth
I should be whisking here
but it's hard to take pictures
too with only two hands.
While whisking, slowly begin to pour in your warm broth. This amount of roux will absorb approximately 4-5 cups of broth. Pour and whisk, removing the lumps. The gravy will thicken quickly at this point. IF it seems too thick (like glue?), add more broth or even a little water (especially if your broth seemed a little on the salty side). I have been known to add a bit of dry white wine to mine on occasion. That was rather fantastic.

 I test the thickness by dipping a spoon in and seeing if it coats the back.

Now taste your gravy. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Not chickeny enough? add some sage or poultry seasoing. Or a bit of onion powder. Salt. Pepper.  Try not to add a seasoning you didn't cook the meat with or it will seem odd (aka yucky).

That's it.

The difference between this and using a slurry is that the process goes, well, kind of backwards....and there's a teeny tiny bit more fat with a roux (but not really because if you eat something on a holiday, it's fat free--trust me).

With a slurry, add your broth to a saucepan and heat. In a small bowl or cup, stir together a heaping tablespoon of cornstarch to a tablespoon or two of COLD water and stir well. Add this slurry to the broth and keeping mixing. When the gravy comes to a full boil, that is the thickness of your broth. Don't continue to boil the gravy though or you will break down the cornstarch to something, well, quite icky.
Season according to taste.

I hope this helps a little.


Mother B said...

You know...when I think about it....Mom always made gravy from a roux. I don't think I ever did and I don't know why.

Erin said...

Don't laugh, but I've had the roux to broth ratio wrong a time or two & had to finish off with a slurry. Oh well. It was still yummy.

betty crocker said...

any port in a storm, Erin :) Sometimes I get mine too thick because of the gelatin from cooking down the bones makes the broth so thick (oh poor me lol)

Mom, I think probably because you shouldn't mess with perfection-there are many many times when I taste the gravy and say "Mom would like this."