I've started a new column in the Topeka Capital-Journal called Food 411. Readers can write to me any food question and I’ll try to find an answer.
This week’s question was all about making gravy. Since a lot of people seem to be a bit intimidated when making gravy, I thought I’d share the answer here so my blog readers can find help if they need it. I just wish I had a pretty gravy boat photo to go with it!
Q: What is the secret to making gravy that doesn't taste too floury or is just plain-old blah tasting? I have yet to master it.
Jan in Topeka
Jan, gravy is tricky. I
took me years to feel comfortable making it, and many times I restored to the
jarred or canned variety instead.
The first step to great gravy is great-tasting broth. If you are using pan drippings from a roasted piece of meat, add some onions, carrots, and celery to the bottom of the pan to boost the flavor. Whole garlic cloves and bay leaves also add good flavor. For canned broth, simmer some of these vegetables in it until they are tender, and then strain the broth through a sieve to remove the depleted veggies.
That floury taste is often caused by not cooking the flour long enough. You need 2 tablespoons of flour for each cup of broth. One method is to blend the flour with double the amount of cold water or broth (so 2 tablespoons of flour with 4 tablespoons water) to make a smooth slurry. I shake mine in a jar with a lid to combine. Then just whisk the slurry into the broth and bring to a boil to reach the full thickness. Simmer for about 10 minutes to cook the flour, stirring occasionally.
A second method, and one that adds a richness to the gravy, is to use a roux. Melt a fat (butter or meat drippings) over low heat, and then whisk in an equal amount of flour. Cook, stirring, until the mixture bubbles and cook for up to 3 minutes to rid the roux of the floury taste. Then whisk in the broth and bring to a simmer over low heat.
If you want gravy that tastes like Grandma’s, keep in mind that many cooks back in the day used gravy enhancers to add flavor. My grandmother used one called Kitchen Bouquet. Gravy Master was another popular brand. These enhancers can still be found at the grocery store if you want to give one a try.