Scratch Cooking: Good Gravy!

So you’ve roasted that chicken or cooked that chuck roast in the slow cooker, now what do you do with those thin drippings and juices? You have two choices: Freeze and save them for your next pot of soup or make gravy tonight!

The easiest way to make gravy is by simply thickening those juices. The easiest was to thicken them is with cornstarch. When I have a guest who is gluten intolerant, especially, this is how I make gravy:

1.       Stir together two tablespoons of cornstarch and ½ cup cold water. (The water must be cool or the cornstarch will clump into distressing little balls and not mix properly.)

2.       Transfer the juices from the crockpot or roasting pan into a sauce pan. Skim the fat from the top leaving mostly drippings. Add broth if you don’t have at least two cups of drippings. (The broth can be made from a bouillon cube or powder added to warms or hot water.)

3.       Add a third of the cornstarch solution (stir it up before adding) to the drippings. Turn up heat to bring mixture to a simmering boil stirring constantly.

4.       Continue to stir as the mixture turns from milky looking to clear and thickening.

5.       Continue to add cornstarch solution while stirring constantly until the gravy is as thick as you like it. If it gets too thick, thin it with a little water or broth.

6.       You may want to add salt and pepper to taste or maybe some herbs depending on the type of meat. I use sage and parsley for chicken and thyme for beef.

I also use this method to make stir-fry sauce. When all the meat and vegetables are cooked, I push them to the sides of the pot and pour a cold mixture of broth, soy sauce, and cornstarch into the center of the pan and stir until it boils and thickens. Then I take it off the heat and stir to combine the sauce with all the other ingredients in the pot and serve over hot rice.

The other common way to make (medium) gravy is with two tablespoons fat and two tablespoons flour per cup of liquid:

1.       Melt two tablespoons of fat (skimmed beef or poultry fat or margarine or butter or some combination of the two) in a sauce pan over low heat.

2.       Sprinkle two tablespoons of all-purpose flour over fat, then stir or whisk continuously over medium heat until mixture is smooth and bubbly.

3.       Take off heat and add cup of liquid (in this case, drippings, broth, bouillon or some combination of these liquids). Return to heat and bring mixture to a boil stirring or whisking continuously until thickened.

4.       You can add a little more liquid if the gravy is too thick, or add some cornstarch solution if it is too thin for your taste. (If you measure the flour and fat carefully, you shouldn’t need to do either of these things.)

5.       Add salt and pepper to taste or herbs depending on the type of meat drippings used.

A medium white sauce is basically medium gravy as shown above only you use butter or margarine rather than animal fat and use milk for all or part of the liquid. Add grated cheese at the end, and you have a cheese sauce. Add crumbled breakfast sausage or chorizo sausage, and you have biscuit and gravy sauce for breakfast. Add chipped beef, chicken, turkey, tuna, or salmon and some vegetables and herbs, and serve over toast or baking powder biscuits, and you have a lunch or dinner entrée.

  • For heavier white sauce, add more flour and fat per cup of liquid: ¼ cup flour and ¼ cup fat to 1 cup liquid.
  • For lighter white sauce, add less flour and fat per cup of liquid: one tablespoon flour and one tablespoon of fat to 1 cup liquid.

Cream soups and chowders can start from a light or medium white sauce base that is thinned to taste with more milk or broth.  The cream soup made from such bases can be substituted in casseroles for canned cream soups. This can add up to quite a savings on the food bill over time if your family eats a lot of casseroles, soups, and chowders.

This last method of making gravy I discovered when cooking a nice lean pork loin roast on a bed of sautéed leeks in a covered Dutch oven. By the time the roast was finished, the leeks were pretty much mush.  The pureed  leeks and pan drippings with some added salt and pepper became the gravy! The pureed leeks thickened the juices wonderfully and made excellent (and in this case, low-fat and gluten-free) gravy. I have since used this method in other meat recipes where vegetables were cooked until very soft (as when you pressure cook or use a slow cooker to prepare a pork or beef roast). An electric stick hand mixer is very handy for pureeing in the cooking pan so you don’t have to use a food processor.

Now you are all set to make gravy, soup, stir-fry sauce, casserole, soup, chowder, or biscuits and gravy! Hope this helps you make some great meals and save money on your next trip to the grocery store. Begonia

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