Look, it’s January. We may have turned the page to the new year, but the pandemic isn’t done with us yet, and some of us may need some good old-fashioned comfort food before this is over. So, let’s start with the most basic.
Gravy, it sounds so simple, yet it vexes so many home cooks. It’s made of three key ingredients plus the seasoning. First, you start with relatively equal amounts of fat and flour, and then you add liquid slowly until the emulsion is the right consistency. (The fat surrounds the flour and suspends it in the liquid, this is what makes it an emulsion.)
The key with gravy is to be patient with yourself and with the process. First, I need you to understand that there is and always will be an ugly stage where it looks like you messed up. It will look like dough for just a moment. It’s a transition, and it will pass.
Each time you add a little more liquid, keep calm and stir on.
For those who need visuals:
I’ve made a time-lapse video so you can see this batch of gravy through all of the ugly stages. I’ve not gotten the staging set up in our kitchen perfectly, so it’s not the best video, but you get the gist.
This “recipe” is more of a ratio. I’m writing amounts but know that you can expand or contract the amounts based on your preferences and your needs. We are generally feeding 6 – 8 people; you may not need a vat of gravy. You might be able to get away with a quarter as much. It will work. I usually use Better Than Bouillon, but because of the pandemic, I did stock up on bouillon cubes, so I was using up some of those for this demonstration. That’s why I had to cut some of the video, I was waiting for the second batch of cubes to dissolve.
- 1/4 cup butter or pan drippings
- 1/4 cup flour
- 3 – 4 cups beef stock or broth
- Fresh ground pepper
- Salt - to taste IMPORTANT if you are using commercial stock or broth you may not need any. If you are using homemade stock or broth, you may need a significant amount.
In a skillet with straight sides, melt the butter over medium heat. If you wish, at this time you may add seasoning that complements your main dish.
When the butter has fully melted sprinkle the flour evenly over the melted fat.
Stir to combine the fat and flour until completely smooth.
Allow to cook for two to three minutes to get rid of the raw, flour taste.
Slowly add the beef stock 1/4 – 1/2 cup of liquid at a time. Stirring between additions until the liquid is fully incorporated into the emulsion. It is going to look weird.
It will look like dough at first. KEEP STIRRING.
Add more liquid. Stir. Add liquid. Stir.
Eventually, you will have a smooth gravy and a tired arm.
Season with fresh pepper and enjoy over your favorite meal
If you are using homemade stock, you may need a significant amount, but don't add it all at once. Add it about a half to a full teaspoon to start, stir for a minute or two, then taste. Add half of what you added before, stir for another minute or two and then taste again.
If is very important to give the salt time to fully incorporate into the gravy and to not add it all at once, it's very easy to go overboard and add too much at once.
PS if you don’t want to just hear about food, send your cleaning, laundry and organizing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get them answered. (If you sent something in and I missed it in the past, please resend it.)