Sunday, December 9, 2007

Gravy Part 1

Allrighty then.

So a while ago, my pal Lisa asked me about thickening gravy. I haven't bothered answering her yet because it was after the fact that she needed to know (she made gravy for Thanksgiving and it was a little too thin). Well, now we're getting close to the Christmas holiday (and Hanukkah. But I don't think Hanukkah is that big of a deal compared to Passover and Rosh Hoshanah for our Jewish pals.) and you might be preparing for another Turkey dinner or a dinner with gravy in it. Lisa really only wanted to know about thickening her gravy, but I will get to that, too. Because I've got some remedies for gravy gone wrong, friends!

I like gravy. A lot. My brother, the Garage Gourmet, makes the best gravy EVER. But so can you! I'm going to break it down for you. Maybe I can even find some online pictures, because I don't have my camera here (it's still at Pam and Jeff's) and I'm not really going to make some gravy today. I'm actually - even as I'm typing this - making some chicken stock. And I think that's where we will start. Because stock is an important part of gravy.

Now. Please don't think you need to make your own stock, because you don't!!! Here's the important thing to know: Your stock (or broth) needs to have a lot of flavor to make your gravy have a lot of flavor. How do you make your stock flavorful? You need to reduce it.

Reducing your stock means that you'll be cooking off a lot of the liquid and concentrating the stock to make it more flavorful. And reducing it is totally easy.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and direct you to make a lot of reduced stock and freeze it. It's great to have on hand for homemade soups.

Okay. Are you ready? Take your stock or ready-made chicken broth (and if you're buying chicken broth? Buy the low-sodium variety.) and place the desired amount in a saucepan or dutch oven. I'd probably do 3-4 of those aseptic boxes. Place it on your burner and bring it just to a boil. I think most people know what a boil looks like. Here's a picture, though, just in case:

(This photo is from Google.)

You can see all of those bubbles, right? This is referred to a full, rolling boil. Because if you were to try and stir this water, it would keep on bubbling. When you bring something just to a boil, you can stir it and it will stop bubbling for a little bit.

Then? When it comes to a boil, I want you to reduce the heat so that you bring it down to a simmer. Do you know what a simmer is?

I can't find a photo on Google for this, but it's easy to explain: just before you boil something? It comes to a simmer. If you are simmering water, you might notice a bunch of bubbles at the bottom of the pan, but only a few will come to the surface. THAT'S a simmer, my friends. It's kind of hard to see those bubbles when you're looking at chicken broth or stock, but just concentrate on the amount of bubbles breaking the surface of the stock.

Okay, so now you've got that simmer going. Now just leave it alone to simmer away while you clean the kitchen or the rest of the house (or while you blog ;o). I want you to simmer until you've reduced it by HALF (Heck! You can even reduce it more!). You'll know because you can see a bunch of scuzz on the side of the pan. Sorry, but "scuzz" is my entertaining way of saying sediment. That's how you can tell how much water has dissipated through your simmering without actually measuring. This will take some time, depending on how much broth you're reducing. Maybe an hour or two?

Just keep checking in on it to make sure things don't get out of hand (i.e, don't totally forget and simmer it all away and start the house on fire. Because that's not impressive.)

When you're done? Cool your reduced stock and then freeze it. I use 2-3 cup capacity containers to store my frozen stock.

So! I'd do this sometime this week and you won't be worrying about this at the last minute.

And guess what? I'm reducing some beef broth right now! Mmmhmm. I'm also making some chicken stock at the same time and then later today we're rockin' some French onion soup here at Elizabeth Hill. I'm even going to Target to buy some little soup bowls. I've been wanting the lion's head Apilco brand bowls from Williams-Sonoma (here's a photo from the WS site):

They are $30 each at Williams-Sonoma. But our friends at Target have knocked them off for a mere $2.99 (I think) apiece! Woo Hoo!!! I'm such a happy girl!

Okay, so the gravy instruction will continue at a later date. I want you to sit with the information I've given you. Does that sound okay?

Are there any questions? Was this helpful and easy to understand for you all? Does it make sense? Let me know!




Cutzi said...

How could I be so on the edge of my seat about gravy?!

Janet said...

It makes perfect sense. I think I will go and put a chicken on to simmer and make the stock which will become the gravy late in the day. Shred the chicken, add to gravy and eat on fresh biscuits. My all time favorite comfort food :>).

Amy said...

Thanks for the tip! You know, I am not a big gravy fan but maybe I could be converted if I tasted your brother's!

Penny said...

Great info! I may even be able to handle that since I can boil & simmer! *snicker*

I love that bowl! Hope you got to Target to get your bowls! :)

Lisa@Take90West said...

Thank you, thank you!
I will give it a try again at Christmas.
With not-made-by-me chicken stock.

Laurie said...

I found this house online and thought of you. Check out
It's an upper end home on one of the Alexandria lakes. Play the slideshow and enjoy the fabulous master bedroom & bath. It's a pretty big one but has lots of the cottage charm that you like.

Mrs. Jones said...

I'm so tired right now, I'm not even going to try to make you laugh.

Now that you've told me *how* to make gravy, does this mean I can't buy it in a jar anymore? (like that ever fooled anyone!)

The Autumn Dahlia said...

I think I may make my mother weep tears of joy if I FINALLY figure out gravy. I'm seriously printing this off to give it a try!!

Michelle said...

Seriously, Martha, I keep checking back to see if you've posted "Gravy Part Deux" yet. It's like waiting for the seventh Harry Potter book all over again!