25 November 2009

The last dish

The first time I made gravy on my own was one of my first holidays celebrated with my in-laws. My mother-in-law has a friend who usually makes it, but she wasn't around. I said I'd do it, and it wasn't until I got going that I realized I'd never actually made it before. I had, however, watched my mom make it dozens of times.

I understood the basics of it. Fat plus starch plus liquid equals gravy. Still, I did make one phone call to my mom for a little reassurance, and in the end we had gravy on the table.

Gravy can be intimidating to a generation who didn't grow up watching someone make it on Sunday mornings to slather over fresh-baked biscuits. In fact, I think our fear of all things fattening nearly banished it from many tables. And, of course, it's because of that fat that it's absolutely delicious, and, in moderation, isn't the worst thing you could put in your body.

My mom makes a giblet gravy that's fabulous. It never occurred to me to think it was weird to include the organ meats and hard-boiled eggs. Besides, what else are you supposed to do with that strange sack of organs stuffed in your bird?

If you'd like a good recipe or two, check out this page from Gourmet. You'll find a few gravy recipe options.

And here are a couple of pointers to keep in mind:
  • Gravy gets thicker as it cools, so be patient with it.
  • It won't reach its full thickness if you don't heat it to a slow bubble.
  • Lumps in the gravy typically come from flour or cornstarch that wasn't added properly. If you need to boost your gravy's thickening power mid-course, take a couple of tablespoons of stock and add a teaspoon or so of corn starch. Whisk to incorporate and then add the liquid to the gravy and simmer.
  • Gravy is a pan sauce, really. And pan sauces are delicious because they're cooked with the rendered fats and bits from meats or some other foods. The added bonus of making a pan sauce is that it actually helps clean your pan by removing those stuck-on bits!

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