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- What is gravy exactly? technically, it's an emulsified starch-bound sauce. Meaning that the fat from the drippings are suspended in water (emulsion). Starch-bound means that a carbohydrate starch is used as a thickener.
- So what makes lumpy gravy? You stir a spoonful of flour into a saucepan of hot liquid...BLAM...instant lumps! What happened was that the starch granules on the outside of every lump of flour expanded at the same moment making a waterproof gel around the outside of the lump. It makes a tight swollen wrapper around the dry intact lump of flour... lumpy gravy! Every time! And it's going to stay that way, too. The only thing you can do is to strain it through a fine sieve.
- Got it...but how do you avoid it? One of the oldest truths of cooking...add cold thickeners to hot liquids, hot thickeners to cold liquids. So, mix flour with cold water or stock until absolutely smooth, then whisk into the simmering pan.
- Any equipment required? A good whisk is the best way to keep the granules from lumping. The last time I was pressed into gravy making in a strange kitchen, there was no whisk to be found. The hostess looked blankly at me when I asked for one. I grabbed up the beater from the electric mixer and used it. Not quite as good as a real whisk but it worked OK. I needed to wear a mitt, otherwise I might have gotten a nasty burn.
Any whisk will do just fine but if you are making the gravy in the roasting pan you might think about this new shape of whisk...it's flat with the wire in long oval-like loops. You can cover more area in one swoosh that with a regular tall round whisk. If you make your gravy in a saucepan, the standard whisk is good. On the other hand, I used a mixer beater and all was fine.
Secrets for Success Edit
- I boil the chopped onion and celery for the stuffing in chicken stock with a couple of bay leaves tossed in. You can use canned or fresh. My local Chinese restaurant makes a really tasty chicken broth and that's what I use.
- I retain the vegetable/chicken stock and cool and put into the refrigerator. All the fat rises to the top and hardens. Remove it. This will be the liquid base of the gravy.
- I make my gravy in a saucepan not in the roasting pan. It's just easier for me. If you are a dedicated roasting pan fan...no problem.
- I pour the drippings into a big measuring cup so that the fat can go to the top. You want a little fat but not a whole lot. A time saving tip is to put a couple of ice cubes into the drippings to separate the fat fast. Ice cubes won't hurt the gravy.
- If I've got tasty crumbles in the pan, I deglaze. After you've emptied the roaster, turn the heat up. Once the pan is hot, stir in a little white wine or water and scrape off all the good tasting bits. Add this to the saucepan for the gravy.
- In a cup or a bowl mix several tablespoons of flour with ½ cup of the stock, COLD from the refrigerator. Use the whisk and make sure this mixture is absolutely smooooooth. Very important! This is the trick to lump-free gravy.
- Put the drippings and whatever amount of fat you want... zero to ½ cup depending on how much gravy you are making and how rich you want it. I add the remaining stock to the drippings and bring to a good solid simmer. In a nice thin even stream, add the cold flour/stock mixture to the pan. Use that whisk in a nice motion...too fast and it will encourage the starch molecules so break down too fast.
- Remember that it's going to take until the flour mixture is fully heated and the granules pop for the thickening to happen.
- Here's the way you can control the thickness of the gravy... if it's to thin, have a standby of additional flour and cold water or white wine mixture...too thick, add white wine or water or stock.
- Whisk!...Whisk!!...Whisk!!! It makes a difference.
- I like using ground white pepper instead of black pepper. The gravy looks prettier.
- Reheating leftover gravy: microwave works just fine. On the top of the stove, a double boiler seems to keep it from separating or going gluey.
Things to add to store bought gravy Edit
- Sauté the giblets from the turkeys. Cut into small bits and add to gravy.
- Fresh herbs: for every 4 cups of gravy add mince up to 2 Tbsp of herbs, such as thyme, sage, rosemary, parsley,tarragon or a combination of them.
- Spiked gravy: For every 1 cup of gravy, add 2 Tbsp of any of the following...dry sherry, Madeira, port (tawny or ruby), brandy or cognac, or Bourbon. You can add white or red wine...just for taste. Don't add so much that it thins down the gravy too much.
Now you can go for broke and add giblets, herbs, and a little bit of libation. I don't think you can go too far with gravy from a jar...just taste after each addition.