Cooking With Fire: Gravy

Dec 1, 2017

Credit Justin Cary

Gravy: the unsung hero of the holiday dinner table. No matter what you’re serving -- from turkey to ham to prime rib -- gravy deserves a place on the table as a staple side.

Historically, gravy was three simple ingredients: the drippings from your roasted meat, a little wheat flour or cornstarch to thicken, and some butter. Over the years gravy has come to cover a whole slew of foods that are served as a sauce over meat or veggies.

Classic brown gravy has given way to cream gravy, or what we call country gravy, the classic white gravy made with sausage drippings that is served on chicken fried steak or as the star of a nice plate of biscuits and gravy.

The best thing about gravy is that it can add extra depth to your holiday turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing, but you want to make sure you take the time to make gravy right.

Case in point: Last week my wife and I were unloading our kid and side dishes at my parents' house for our yearly Thanksgiving gathering when my mother noted that we didn’t have any gravy and pointed over to her stove. Next to a skillet was some margarine, corn starch and a little chicken stock. My sister can’t have dairy, I can’t eat gluten and there were no leftover turkey drippings this year.

I quickly started melting down the margarine and added a little cornstarch to start to thicken the mixture. I slowly started adding the stock and it locked up like glue. Luckily I knew to quickly whisk and add more stock to break down the clumps, and was able to salvage a serviceable, albeit thin, dietary-restricted gravy that no one complained about, at least not to my face.

So next time you need to make some gravy, don’t be daunted. Just do as I say, and not as I did. If you take a little time to do it right and don’t try and rush it just before dinner, you should be just fine. Especially if you can use butter, flour, and turkey drippings like we did for this week’s podcast.

Turkey Stock & Gravy

Ingredients

 For the turkey stock:

  • 1 turkey neck
  • 1 turkey back bone
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 bunch parsley stems
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns

 For the Turkey Gravy:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 2 cups turkey stock and turkey pan drippings
  • black pepper and salt, as needed

Instructions

  1. To make the turkey stock, cut the backbone into 3 pieces. Preheat a stock pot over high heat. Put a couple of tablespoons of oil in the stock pot. Sear the neck and back bone pieces in the hot oil, turning until browned on all sides. Remove from the pot. Add the onion, carrots and celery. Cook, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula, until all of the browned fond on the bottom of the pot is released from the pot. Add the neck and back bone back to the pot, along with the remaining ingredients. Cover with one gallon of cold water. Bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until reduced by half. Strain the stock through a cheesecloth lined strainer. Discard the solids. Refrigerate the liquid.
  2. To make the gravy, melt the butter in the 8” Lodge cast iron skillet, over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk constantly until lightly toasted and fragrant. Slowly whisk in the turkey stock/drippings. Season with black pepper and salt, as needed.

 

Country Cream Gravy

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb sage sausage
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Brown the sausage in a skillet over medium heat. Break up into fine pieces. Add the butter. Melt. Add the flour. Stir constantly for about one minute. Don’t brown the flour. Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly. Adjust consistency with more milk, if needed. Taste and season with the salt and pepper.
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