Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ode to Gravy

A couple weeks ago, I roasted a chicken and made some gravy to go with it and the mashed potatoes I'd prepared, and it was so good I had to restrain myself from drinking it. Seriously. My friend Tippi used to make fun of how country his coworkers were by saying they thought gravy was a vegetable. Many a hard-pressed Southern mama has fed her brood on rice and gravy for dinner every night. Biscuits and sausage gravy are pure heaven for breakfast. And it's so easy! All you need is a little fat, flour, salt and pepper, and liquid. It takes a little practice and you know I don't have any exact measurements, but once you get the hang of it, you have a valuable cullinary skill and a tasty meal in a pinch. There are two basic types of gravy: brown gravy and milk gravy.

Brown (or Chicken) Gravy

After roasting or searing meat or chicken, remove from pan. If the remaining liquid is especially fatty, tip the pan and spoon off some of the fat that rises to the top. You need at least a thin sheen of fat covering the bottom of the pan or skillet, though. You may need to add a little oil or butter if your meat was lean. Now sprinkle flour over the hot oil/fat, stirring constantly. Start with a scant 1/4 cup or even less. You are making a roux. You want the flour to absorb the oil and brown a little. Too much flour to too little fat and it will ball up, making for lumpy gravy. (If that happens, you can salvage the finished product with an immersion blender.) Once your roux has cooked and browned for a minute, add liquid, still stirring or whisking steadily. I used boxed chicken broth for the chicken gravy that was so drinkable. You can add a little red wine to beef gravy to add depth and make it fancier. Any broth will do. You want to add broth until it's too thin, then cook and stir for a couple minutes until it thickens, seasoning with salt and pepper. The longer it cooks, the more it will thicken. You can do this several times, adding more broth and cooking it down again, to concentrate the flavors.

Milk Gravy (preferably with sausage)

I do not like milk gravy much, unless it's sausage gravy. Milk gravy is typically served at breakfast, with biscuits, but it also comes on country fried or chicken fried steak. It involves the exact same process as above, except you use milk in place of the broth. If it's breakfast, you can use the fat from frying bacon or sausage, or you can use butter.

Sausage Gravy

In a large skillet, brown and crumble one roll of breakfast sausage (instead of making patties, just slice open the whole roll and break it up as you brown it). I like Jimmy Dean's reduced fat sausage. If you have a lot of fat once the meat has browned, drain off all but a couple tablespoons. Sprinkle flour over the sausage and stir until you have what look like little sausage balls. You won't have a roux so much as you will have little browned, flour-coated balls of sausage. Now add about a cup of milk, then cook and stir over medium heat. The flour will melt into the milk and thicken the gravy. If it looks too thick after a few minutes, add more milk. Serve over split biscuits. Breakfast heaven!


JodieMo said...

whenever I want Blaine to do something that he would otherwise not willingly do, I make gravy. The man goes ga ga over it. And ,as he has told everyone that has ever asked, he married me for my gravy.

You sound like you know what your doing when it comes to gravy, as any good Southern woman should. I better not send my hubby to your house, he'll never leave. :)

Amanda Fowle said...

I <3 Gravy!

Gosh, we ate is a couple times a week as a kid, and I think I probably learned to make gravy about the same age I learned to make toast. Rice and gravy was my fave! Yum!