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Good Gravy!

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I had a strange idea. I am always surprised at the number of people who don’t know how to make good gravy. First of all, most people who love to cook can make good gravy and may have some advice different than mine. Feel free to share. For the gravy challenged around us, however, here we go.

DRIPPINGS

First is the drippings or broth. You have a turkey let’s say with all kinds of good drippings. Get those into a sauce pan and fire up the burner. We want those good and hot, what is called a hard boil. If you don’t get much or even any drippings (we need to talk about how you cook your turkey if this is the case) you can use chicken broth or make some broth with bouillon or other base. You may need to add some fat, like butter or margarine, to get good gravy. Fat is half the ingredient that makes gravy thick.

THICKENER

Next, Take some corn starch and spoon two or three large spoonfuls into a small bowl. Dissolve the corn starch in COLD water. Use a spoon to stir and break up the corn starch. When it is creamy and lump-less its ready. If you are a measure by measure cook, I apologize. I am an eyeball cook. No I don’t eat eyeballs. The amount of corn starch you need will vary with the amount of fat in the drippings and the amount of gravy you are trying to mix. I use about two or three tablespoons (heaping). There that should get you close.

WHAT IS IN A WISK

You need a good whisk. I like, and require, a good three dimensional whisk. Yeah, they probably have real name but you can tell what I mean. Yes, you can use one of those flat whisks if you want.

BOILING, MIXING, BOILING

When your broth is boiling its ready for the thickener (cornstarch). The key here is following directions. Yes, I have problems with that sometimes too. From the time you start adding the thickener until the gravy is ready, you don’t put down the whisk, in fact except for switching hands and massaging cramps quickly, that whisk should be moving gravy around in the sauce pan continuously. (One key mistake made in making gravy is in thinking it cooks itself. If you are trying to do several things at once, you’re not cooking gravy your making lumps. Sometimes gravy should be delegated to one person who can concentrate on just the gravy for 10 minutes or so.) It doesn’t have to be twirling and light speed or anything just keep the gravy moving. Also I like to reverse directions now and then, to help stir it good and thoroughly. Now while whisking slowly pour the thickener into the gravy. This will knock down the boil and you will be wisking for a minute or two after you get that boil back. Once it starts to show signs of boiling you can cut the heat back a bit. Adjust the heat so it will still come to a boil but not boil over. Those bubbles will hang around longer as the gravy gets thicker and eventually cause the mixture to escape, to your frustration, onto the stove-top and the floor. It is important to let the gravy boil for over a minute or so. This is where the starches are combining with the fat to make the gravy nice and thick. It is while whisking and waiting for the boil to return that I add the spices I want. Tasting is important here. Maybe a touch of salt and pepper. You can be creative here if you want. Tarragon and cumin, what ever you like. I would look to those spices you used on the turkey and let them be the guide. After boiling a minute or so, the gravy should show some signs of thickening. It will continue to thicken as it cools.

TOO THICK, TOO THIN

If you are unhappy with the thickness, you can bring it back to a boil and either add more thickener or more base (either water or broth). this can be a long process as you have to break the starches apart and recombine them through the same boil, mix, and boil process. Most people will take what they get after the initial shot because frankly their hands and arms won’t do any more and by now and everything else is either ready or needing attention in some way.

If you end up with a jelly mixture or a brownish water, you may need to make some adjustments. Remember that fat is half the ingredient for thickening gravy and motion is how lumps are prevented.

If you have been ‘gravy challenged’ and are concerned for the well being of your potatoes and stuffing, I recommend playing with the gravy recipe before the big day. Make a little gravy tonight and tomorrow night. It will ease your fear and make Thanksgiving less traumatic.

Have a great Thanksgiving,

Brutus

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