I had a special request left as a comment several weeks ago anonymously. Yes I actually do know this person although she always comments without her identity. So if you also comment anonymously don't be surprised if you get a return email intended for someone else ( : Just sayin !!!!! Anyway this was her request so I am going to try to answer it.
It was wonderful to hear your lovely voice on the phone today. It made my week! =D
I have realized I have a problem only you can help me with.
I am married to a gravy snob. I have been married to this man for almost twenty one years and STILL cannot make a gravy he doesn't have to go behind me and tweak. He rarely is fussy. He never complains about anything else I cook.
It's almost to the point where I don't want to cook anything which must be served with gravy ever again. =/
Could you possibly lend your gravy wisdom to those of us who read your blog when you get a chance?
Thank you bunches and tons.
September 1, 2010 6:28 PM
Well I don't know how many answers I have but I will share my little knowledge in this area. Most gravy is actually meat drippings or broth and seasonings thickened either with usually flour or corn starch. Having grown up in southern Louisiana with it's heavy french influence I always make a roux. So that is where I am going to start.
Roux is a mixture of wheat flour and fat. It is the thickening agent in the three mother sauces of classical french cooking: sauce bechamel ( white or blanche sauce), sauce veloute (blond or velvety) , and sauce espagnole ( Spanish sauce). Roux is usually used as a thickener for gravy, other sauces, soups and stews. It is usually made from equal parts oil and fat by weight. You have seen me make a roux tutorial here for making gumbo.
When I make my gravy I make a roux and then add my meat drippings and stir with a whisk cooking until smooth and thickened. If it needs thinning I thin with broth or stock either chicken or beef.
I know from talking to you (anonymous commenter) that you were cooking beef and then straining the drippings and adding a flour and water paste to the boiling drippings to thicken. The heat of the boiling broth releases the starch from the flour thus thickening it. However the temperature is not hot enough to eliminate the floury taste. This flour water mixture is sometimes referred to as a "cowboy roux" and in modern cuisine is called a white wash. It is used infrequently in haute cuisine as it imparts a flavor to the finished dish that a traditional haute cuisine chef would find unacceptable.
Since I think the main complaint is blandness for your husband to feel the need to tweak then I would say you need to maybe add more flavor to the drippings in the form of seasonings or maybe wine.
Instead of thickening with a white wash maybe try to make a dry roux or Yankee roux powder. This is dry flour toasted on top of the stove in a skillet that can be cooled and kept in the refrigerator for later use.
You can find directions to make a dry roux in the microwave HERE
Although I just put my flour in a dry skillet and browned it stirring constantly. Made enough for a pint jar in the fridge and I have instant gravy thickener and roux.
It can also be purchased online in jars at some Cajun websites. I have seen it referred to as a dry roux or Yankee roux.
It can be purchased online HERE
I am experimenting with this now as a shortcut to my holiday cooking. You would add liquid (preferably broth or stock) to this powdered roux to make a paste and add to your roast drippings ( or turkey ) and cook to thicken. You would add to your drippings as you are now but it would have more of a toasted flavor as opposed to raw flour. This should improve your beef flavor. Think of it as homemade gravy mix almost !! The great thing about using this homemade toasted flour or dry roux is that it takes no oil so actually lightens your cooking and that is always a plus.
The third thing I would try is beef stock or broth mixed with your dry roux instead of water. Homemade would be ideal but in the absence of homemade try using bought broth or stock. This would also add flavor to your gravy. When you just add water and flour you are actually watering down the beef flavor of your beef drippings. Word of warning though be careful of salt as many bought broths and stocks are high in salt. Knowing your husband has diabetes and blood pressure issues I would maybe try the low sodium broths. So you would prepare your drippings as always by straining and heating and then instead of adding a whitewash try adding a dry roux or toasted dry flour and broth paste to your hot dripping to thicken.
Hope this helps.
Blessings from The Holler
The Canned Quilter