Thursday, November 27, 2008

I'm Thankful For Gravy

There are many things for which I'm thankful, when I stop to ponder.  Later, I may even have a list of sorts and a musing on the widespread custom of gathering together at Winter's threshold to share the harvest.

     Right now, I'm thankful I could never make a good roux.  I can't brown flour in butter or oil all by its lonesome; I had to figure out how to cheat.

     You cheat at roux by getting some foodstuff all floury and frying it while the flour goes along for the ride -- chunks of meat or, today, mushrooms as in Mushroom Gravy!  Just take the standard package of fresh sliced 'shrooms, toss enough* flour in a small paper bag, add a very little salt and pepper and anything else you find in the spice cabinet that looks interesting, pop the fungi in the bag, shake well, and fry up in oil.  I used olive and canola oils over middlin' heat, YMMV.

     Fry the mushrooms up 'til the floury coating gets golden-brown and there's no oil left in the pan (I prefer a wok), then add a little water and stir.  Let it come to a boil or almost, add a little more water, taste it and keep on cookin'.  If it seems too salty or spicy, add instant dry milk powder (add a little anyway, it's good  -- buy some if you don't have any, it lasts a long time and comes in handy in the kitchen all the time) or some milk.  Never add a lot of liquid at once -- I ended up with a couple of cups of gravy and never added more than a quarter-cup of water at any one time.  If it needs to taste richer, toss in a some bouillon granules or add meat broth (careful, it can be salty).  Keep the mixture going on the back of the stove, just shy of a boil or just barely boiling, while you finish everything else.  Add water as it thickens.  The browned flour comes off the mushrooms, mixes with the water (etc). and you end up with nice mushroomy gravy for the mashed potatoes.  No lumps, no fretting, no extremely time-critical gravy-making.

     ...I made skin-on Yukon Gold mashed taters, easy as store-bought pie: boil them, drain them, dry them (shake 'em in the pan over medium-high heat), chop up with a knife, add some margarine or butter and a little milk, mash with a fork or tablespoon adding milk as you go, easy as can be.  I had a little bit of sesame garlic in the water when I boiled them and a tiny hint stayed behind after draining.  The skin magically vanishes if you use the YGs and have them done enough.

     Add a nice Rosemary Chicken (from Fresh Market -- so sue me, I didn't want to spend all day fussin' over a bird too big for two), a salad heavy on tomato, carrot and yellow pepper, decent wine on the side and good coffee with the pumpkin pie after and you've got a fair Thanksgiving dinner -- for Tam and me, the first of at least two, since she was invited to the X family gathering upcoming.  More help for the dishwashing!
* Sometimes I'll list measurements but outside of baking, where the magic takes proper proportions, I don't actually measure things when cooking.  If you use up all the flour in the bag, add more.  If there's flour left, pitch it out and oh well: you're not gonna use up more than like 35 cents worth -- okay, maybe 70 if you're a bad guesser).


BobG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BobG said...

"Sometimes I'll list measurements but outside of baking, where the magic takes proper proportions, I don't actually measure things when cooking."

Spoken like a true cook.

Anonymous said...


Flour for dredging
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 pounds boneless chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup salad oil

6 medium onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 12-ounce bottle or can of beer
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon thyme

1. Combine flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge the meat in the seasoned flour.
2. Heat oil in a skillet. Add onion slices and garlic and cook until tender but not brown. Remove the onions from the skillet.
3. Add the meat and brown on all sides, adding a little more oil if necessary. Return the onions to the skillet.
4. Add the remaining ingredients.
5. Cover and cook over low heat until the meat is tender, about one and one-quarter hour. Serve hot with boiled potatoes, spaetzel (preferred in my family,) or noodles.

This works best with richer, darker, less hoppy brews, fizzy yellow mass-market swill should be avoided. Brown ales and alts are good, bock is about as light as I am willing to go. I have never been satisfied using only 12 ounces but can only guess at how much ale I have actually used as I add more to the pot from what I am drinking as the dish cooks. is a good source for spaetzel recipes.