18 September 2012

Fifty Shades of Gravy ~ well, four-ish actually

Do you know what irritates me? That advert that starts ...

Do you remember how homemade gravy used to taste with real meat juices slowly simmered for that delicious home- cooked taste?

... as if it doesn’t taste the same now if you know what you are doing.



A few years ago I worked for a summer (or two, I can’t remember) in a pub, it was not really my kind of thing but I needed a job.   When I took over the kitchen I found some very strange  cooking procedures going on.   For instance carrots were steamed in the convection oven till very floppy and overcooked with no salt or butter or such then to serve they were sliced and heated in the microwave. Fish for fish and chips – get this! – was taken out of the freezer, battered and fried from frozen and THEN finished in the microwave!  Appalling behaviour.  Meat for the Sunday “roast” was tightly wrapped in foil and to my mind “steamed” in the oven.  Any juices produced were thrown away and then gravy was made in “the usual way”, so they told me.  This meant whisking hot water into universal meat flavoured instant gravy mix.  The lads in the kitchen were gobsmacked that I, a self proclaimed chef, didn’t know how to make gravy!

Traditional British Gravy which is normally Brown...

~   Roast your piece of meat properly seasoned and unwrapped.  If you have any bones or other meaty scraps laying about roast them with the meat too.
~   When the meat is cooked to your liking set it aside, lightly covered in a piece of foil, in a warm place to rest. 
~   Pour all the juices from the roasting pan into a bowl, jug or best of all a fat separating jug.
~   Add some hot water to the roasting pan and stir and scrape it over a medium heat to dissolve all the yummy meat goo stuck on the bottom.
~   Add this to the juice in the bowl and leave it to sit for a while so that the fat floats to the top.
~   Once this has happened carefully pour the fat into a saucepan (or the original roasting pan if you prefer) and over medium heat stir in enough flour to make a not too stiff paste.
~   Gradually whisk in all the collected meaty juices.
~   Bring to a boil, whisking till it thickens and simmer a few minutes.
~   Assess the result – if it is too thick add some hot water or stock or wine, if it is not tasty enough add an Oxo or similar.

That’s it.   When I showed the “cooks” in the pub kitchen how to do this they were so surprised they called in their front of house mates crying “Look – real gravy!”.

Gravy Variations, Ideas and Suggestions ....

~   Cook onions, carrots, may be apples, along with the meat to add flavour to the gravy.
~   If roasting a bird and you have the giblets cook them (not including  the liver as it is bitter) in a little water and use this as part of the liquid in the gravy.
~   Add sherry or Madeira to turkey gravy.
~   Add orange zest and juice, or maybe marmalade to duck gravy.
~   Instead or as well as serving condiments and sauces with a meal stir them into the gravy, whole grain mustard for toad in the hole gravy,  a little mustard or horseradish to beef gravy, apple sauce to pork gravy, and so on and so forth.
~   Add red or white wine to gravies as appropriate and available
~   Whisk in a knob of  butter just before serving for a rich and glossy gravy.
~   Stir in soft buttery onions cooked as detailed here.
~   Add cream to chicken gravy.

Other shades of Gravy ...

~   In the Deep South of America they serve a dish, odd sounding to us, called Biscuits and Gravy.  The biscuits are in what we in England call would call scones, not sweet ones though and sometimes made with the buttermilk.   The gravy, which is pale brown, is made by frying crumbled pork sausagemeat till cooked and then setting it aside.  Flour is added to the drippings in the pan to make a roux and then a sauce made by whisking in milk and seasoning with salt and pepper.  It is generally served as a breakfast dish.
~   Red Eye Gravy – this is simply made by frying a thick slice of ham in its own fat, setting the ham aside and deglazing the pan with strong hot black coffee.
~   Cream Gravy (traditionally served in the US with Chicken Fried Steak which is confusing in itself!) – this is just a straightforward bechamel sauce made using vegetable oil instead of butter and plain milk with salt and pepper seasoning – I know what you’re thinking!

More Gravy Matters ...

~   I’m afraid I am posting too late for this year’s Gravy Wrestling contest in Stackstead where contestants must wrestle for 2 minutes in a pool of gravy.  See here for details 

~   A gentleman known as Gravy (real name Labon Kenneth Blackburn Leeweltine Buckonon Benjamin) used to dance at cricket matches in Antigua, one wearing a wedding dress – read all about him here.

Gravy
~    And see here to read about a chap called Wavy Gravy who is a comic activist! 

Wavy Gravy

“I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.
Erma Bombeck

I apologise wholeheartedly for having been so tardy in writing recently – lots of really good but boring reasons which I won’t go into here.  As you can tell from this post I haven’t cooked much worth reporting on either.  Hopefully I’ll be back to normal soon – I could do with a good lunch!

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1 comment:

Jenny Eatwell said...

Lovely to hear from you again - and on one of my favourite subjects, of gravy. :) I figured that you had to have been overtaken by events, which isn't really surprising. Been thinking of you and hoping you'd show up! :)