Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

How to Make Gravy

posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces, Spices and Seasonings by Kathy Maister

Adding sinfully rich gravy to either mashed potatoes, roasted chicken (or Turkey), pork or beef turns the whole meal into a holiday treat! (And it can also be used without the excuse of a holiday!)

There are many, many different ways to make gravy, using slightly different techniques and ingredients. All gravies, no matter how they are made, should have no lumps, should be smooth as silk and should have no taste of raw flour.

In this post, I am going to show you how to make two different gravies – a classic all-purpose gravy and then a really quick gravy. Then, at the end of this post, there are links to two videos which show how to make gravy with pan drippings, as well as links to three photo-tutorials on other ways to make gravy.

This post includes:

  1. Startcooking.com’s Classic All-Purpose Gravy
  2. Startcooking.com’s Quick Gravy
  3. Gravy Enhancers
  4. How to Store and Freeze Gravy
  5. Links to other photo-tutorials and videos on How to make Gravy

1. Startcooking.com’s Classic All-Purpose Gravy

This classic all-purpose gravy is made by first cooking flour and butter together (that’s called a roux – pronounced roo) and then adding cold stock and cooking it until it has thickened and is smooth as silk. This recipe makes four cups of gravy which is great for entertaining.

Ingredients needed:

  • 1/2 cup of butter (unsalted)
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 4 cups of chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup of heavy cream (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste


Making the Roux

Cut 1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons) of unsalted butter into chunks and add it to a medium size heavy sauce pan. (Unsalted butter allows you to control the salt in the gravy.)

On low (to medium-low) temperature melt the butter until it is foamy.

Add 1/2 cup of all-purpose white flour to the pan.

Start whisking the flour…

…until well blended.

Keep whisking and cooking (over very low heat) until it smells like a pie is cooking in the oven! That means the flour is cooked and your gravy will not end up having a “pasty” flavor to it.

Brace yourself, as this could take anywhere from 6-to-12 minutes to get cooked!

Adding the Stock

I will be using chicken stock for this recipe, but you could use vegetable or beef stock or a combination of stocks.

Start by whisking in about 1 cup of stock. (Four cups will eventually get added.)

Keep whisking vigorously until…

…all the stock is absorbed.

Now add a bit more stock…

…whisking until the stock is again absorbed.

Pour in the remaining stock…

…keep whisking!

All of the stock will get absorbed and it will be smooth as silk again! The stove should still be set at low as you continue to cook the gravy.

After 10 minutes, my gravy was still was not quite thick enough. See below how it drips off the spoon.

At about 12 minutes, I added 1/3 cup of cream. This adds such a rich flavor and texture to the final gravy.

Within two minutes of adding the cream, the gravy was perfect!

See below how it now coats the back of the spoon.

Taste the gravy, and add some salt (if you think it needs it) and some white or red pepper.

This is ready to serve!

2. Startcooking.com’s Quick Gravy

This quick gravy is great for making small amounts of gravy. It is made with:

In terms of amounts, the general rule of thumb is 2 tablespoons of flour, plus 2 tablespoon of butter to 1 cup of broth. Broth from a can works beautifully for this recipe, although I am using strained stock from a just-cooked beef pot roast. (Waste not, want not!) The excess fat needs to first get skimmed off the top. Canned stock does not have this excess fat.

Pour the stock into the pot. (I’m using the same pot that I cooked my beef pot roast in.) Turn the heat on medium and heat the stock.

Put the flour and butter into a small bowl.

Using your finger tips or a fork, mix the flour and butter together…

…continuing to mix….

…until you have a really smooth paste. This flour-butter paste is called a “beurre manie.”

Add the beurre manie to the hot stock.

Vigorously whisk together the stock and the flour-butter paste.

Turn the heat down to low and …

…cook the gravy until it is thickened. There should be no “pasty-flour” taste to the gravy. This could take up to 10 minutes.

Taste the gravy to see if it is cooked and if it needs salt and pepper.

Enjoy!

3. Gravy Enhancers

Sometimes homemade gravy is just not the color you want it to be, and occasionally the flavor needs a bit of a boost. In the spice section of the grocery store you can buy flavor enhancers for gravy. Names like Bisto, G Washington’s Rich Brown sauce, Gravy Master Seasoning and Browning Sauce, and Kitchen Bouquet Browning & Seasoning Sauce are available at my grocery store. Enhancers are made of a combination of vegetable extracts, caramel coloring, preservatives, salt, etc. Some people have actually added things like soy sauce or coffee granules to darken their gravies!

Many serious cooks look down on the whole idea of using enhancers. That’s their privilege, but I think beginners should be given more latitude to learn a step at a time using convenient ingredients! Even experienced cooks use these products. My mom always had a product called Gravy Master in the cupboard and I must admit I have followed her tradition!

Enhancers pack a powerful punch and should be used sparingly. They not only add flavor but they also add color to the gravy as well. Just a few drops can turn pale gravy into a color darker than dark chocolate! Be sure to read the directions on the back of the particular brand you have purchased just in case they say otherwise.

4. How to Store and Freeze Gravy

Homemade “flour-thickened” gravy should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container and used within two days of making it. When reheating the gravy bring it to a boil, whisking constantly, and then keep at simmer until ready to serve.

(Note: Gravy thickened with corn starch does not freeze well at all, nor does it hold up for prolonged cooking.)

Flour-thickened gravy can be frozen for up to 3 months. Freeze the gravy in manageable portions. I like using zip-lock freezer bags. Be sure to squeeze out all the air and flatten the gravy. It will take up much less space in the freezer this way.

Frozen Mushroom Gravy, Chicken Gravy, Sweet Potatoes and Pureed Squash

After the gravy has defrosted it may look like it has separated or curdled. Vigorously whisk the gravy as you are re-heating it, in a sauce pan, and it should return to its original texture. You may have to add a few drops of water or stock to the pan as well.

****

5. Links to other photo-tutorials and videos on How to make Gravy

  • Epicurious has an excellent video on How to Make Gravy by deglazing a roasting pan first.
  • The Mayo Clinic also has an excellent video on Making Healthy Gravy. Their recipe uses cornstarch instead of butter and flour to thicken the gravy.
  • Instructables has a great photo-tutorial on a superb looking Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy.
  • For lovers of Giblet Gravy, head over to Cook Like Your Grandmother for a very well done photo-tutorial.
  • Martha Stewarts Perfect Gravy is made with Madera Wine. She thickens her gravy by making a “slurry” of giblet stock and flour in a jar.

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Pecan Pie

print recipe card posted in Sweets by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Pecan Pie, chock-full of nuts, is a splurge that requires very little preparation time. However, you will need to plan for extra time at the gym after eating this mouthwatering dessert!

There are tons of recipe variations for a Pecan Pie. I’m sticking to a very classic recipe that calls for:

  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 cup of dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup of light corn syrup
  • 4 Tablespoons of melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups of pecans, (6 ounces)
  • 1 frozen pie crust, (9 inch.)

Many people use unsalted butter in their recipes. You actually have more control of the amount of salt in a recipe when you add your own. If you are using unsalted butter, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to this ingredient list.

Preheat your oven to 350 F. degrees and then get all of your ingredients measured before you begin mixing. In general, pre-measuring before you start to cook is a good habit to get into.

When measuring brown sugar always pack it into a dry measuring cup.

You can mix everything together with a whisk or a fork.

It should look like the photo below when everything is mixed together. Be sure there are no unmixed lumps of brown sugar.

Add the nuts

And give it a stir. The nuts will float to the surface. (Some recipes call for 2-to-3 times more nuts than my recipe.)

Set the frozen pie shell on a baking sheet with sides. Once the pie is cooked it will be MUCH easier to remove from the oven if it is on a baking sheet.

Now pour in the filling.

The pie is ready to go into your preheated oven.

Before you put it in the oven, cover the edges with a tin foil ring.

Normally you would cook a pie for about 15 minutes and then cover the edges. With pecan pie the crust gets too dark that way, so start with the edges covered. (See photo comparison at the bottom of this post.)

For about $4. you can buy reusable pie rings like the one on the pie in my oven.

As the pie cooks, it puffs up. This is normal. It will take about 40-45 minutes for the pie to bake.

To check for “doneness”, slide a small, sharp paring knife into the pie about 2 inches from the crust. It should come out clean. (If you have an “instant read” thermometer the internal temperature of the pie should reach 200 F. degrees.)

As the pie cools, it will slump down and the top will crack a bit.

I love Pecan Pie with vanilla ice-cream!

Enjoy!

P.S.

Below is a photo comparing the pie crusts. For the darker pie on the left, the tin foil went on 15 minutes into the baking time. It is too dark. For the one on the right, I put the tin foil on before putting it in the oven…and it’s perfect!

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Sweet Potato Casserole

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Sweet Potato Casserole is a vegetable side dish for people who say they hate vegetables. It is sweet enough to be a dessert, but since it really is a vegetable it can be paired perfectly with Roasted Chicken, turkey, and (especially) baked ham. In the USA, it is a traditional dish served with a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

This Sweet Potato Casserole recipe can be made with fresh sweet potatoes or with canned sweet potatoes. The canned sweet potatoes are already cooked. The fresh sweet potatoes would need to get cooked first (see below).

Fresh and Canned Sweet Potatoes

Buying canned sweet potatoes may be a bit confusing, as it will say on the label (at least in the USA) both “sweet potato” and “yams”, which may sound like a contradiction of terms as in many parts of the world a yam is not a sweet potato!

In the USA, “yams” are actually sweet potatoes with relatively moist texture and orange flesh. Although, in the USA, the terms are generally used interchangeably, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that the label “yam” always be accompanied by “sweet potato”.

The really great thing about using canned sweet potatoes for this recipe is that all the ingredients can be bought well in advance and just happily sit in your food cupboard until you are ready to start cooking!

sweet potatoes, rum, brown sugar, pecans ,mandarin oranges


Sweet Potatoes – Fresh

Just in case you prefer fresh versus canned sweet potatoes, they need to get cooked first, cooled and then added to the casserole. Bake them as you would white potatoes by first scrubbing them clean…

…poke them with a knife…

…and bake them with their skins left on in a 400 F. degree oven for about 1 hour.

Once cooked, cut them in half and scoop out the sweet potato. They are now ready to be mixed with the other ingredients for the casserole. (See below)


Let’s startcooking!

It takes less than 10 minutes to assemble this Sweet Potato Casserole and only 30 minutes to bake.

As always, it is best to get all your ingredients prepared and measured first.

melted butter, brown sugar, chopped pecans, rum, mandarin oranges

Preparing and Measuring the Ingredients

Put four tablespoons of butter in a small microwave safe bowl and melt the butter in the microwave. That should take about 30 seconds. Three tablespoons of butter will get mixed into the sweet potatoes and the remaining tablespoon of butter will be for the pecan topping.

You can use light or dark brown sugar. Three tablespoons will be mixed in with the sweet potatoes and the remaining tablespoon will be mixed with the chopped pecans for the topping.

Roughly chop 1/3 cup of pecans – or a bit more if you love pecans! A serrated edge knife works best for chopping nuts. Rock the knife through the nuts by holding the handle of the knife in one hand and the tip of the blade with the other hand.

The rum adds a nice flavor to this Sweet Potato Casserole, but it is an optional ingredient.

Drain the liquid from the mandarin oranges…

…and GENTLY rinse them under cold water.

Spread them out on a paper towel or clean kitchen cloth.

Drain the sweet potatoes in a colander,

and put them in a large mixing bowl.


Mixing the Ingredients

Add to the sweet potatoes: three tablespoons of the melted butter….

…2 tablespoons of rum…

…3 tablespoons of brown sugar…

…and 1/4 teaspoon of salt…

and some freshly grated black pepper.

With a potato masher…

or an electric hand mixer…

mash/mix everything together.

GENTLY fold in the mandarin oranges. These oranges are very delicate and you do not want them to lose their shape by over-mixing them into the sweet potatoes.

Spoon the sweet potatoes into a 1 quart, oven-safe casserole dish.

Pecan Topping

Add the chopped pecans to the remaining one tablespoons of butter and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of brown sugar as well.

Mix these three ingredients together with a fork.

Sprinkle this pecan topping on the sweet potatoes.

(Many Sweet Potato Casserole recipes call for mini marshmallows to be added to the top as well!)

Bake the sweet potatoes in a pre-heated 375 F. degree oven for 30 minutes and enjoy!

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