Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gravy Baby

So I know that this is totally last minute, but hopefully it will help you tomorrow while making your thanksgiving dinner. This post is about the life saver (or mouth saver) of thanksgiving; gravy. If you have played around for the last two weeks with roux, this will be no problem at all. The only thing you need to have is a little patience in the beginning and you'll be fine.

Gravy makes everything better. We know mom over cooks the turkey every year. We also know that the potatoes are gluey and dry, as well as the dressing that has the consistency of a sandcastle. These all are helped by decent gravy that although lumpy, makes dinner bearable to eat without stabbing everyone at the table with a shiv that you have fashioned out of the leg bone of the turkey.

This year fortunately, there will be no murder at the dinner table. If you stick to this general gravy recipe you will be good. This is also a great recipe to make on Friday for your leftovers. You can be gravy-ing up while your neighbors tear each other apart over $20 MP3 players.

This is you basic gravy that you can feel free to add more herbs, spices, or giblets. As always this is the foundation to build your gravy greatness on. Let’s get going:

Before we get going, we have to talk a bit about stock. I'll let you slide on using that boxed shit (broth) this time, but next time use homemade stock. Stock bases are also acceptable in a pinch, but no real substitute for real stock. Just a friendly warning for next time (I will hurt you).

Also a note on the herbs. You will need to chop the fuck out of these woody bastards. Chop them until they are super fine and then chop them some more. You'll know you’re on the right track when they look feathery. I know that sounds vague, but you'll understand it when you get there. The herbs have to be fine or else you will get chunks of rosemary stuck in your teeth and nobody wants a wedge of Christmas tree in their teeth.

Herb Gravy
8 cups of stock.
8 ounces of roux
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of rosemary
6-10 sage leaves (depends on your taste, just start with 6)
Small bundle of thyme (if you had me at gunpoint I'd say 12 sprigs)
1 sprig marjoram (totally optional)
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper


•Heat you stock to almost a boil.

•Chop your roux and add it to a hot pot.

•After the roux has melted, start adding one ladle of stock. Whisk until the roux thickens to the consistency of peanut butter.

•Add more stock ladle by ladle until the gravy has the consistency of over creamed mashed potatoes.

•Add the rest of the stock and whisk until incorporated. Bring to a simmer.

•Throw in your herbs, salt, and pepper. Whisk to incorporate.

•Simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and season (salt and pepper) according to how you want it.

Now you have a gravy recipe that will make you the envy of your family and might even get you booted from some of your more wealthy relatives wills. You will be able to take solace in your poverty that even though you won't have money you also won't have to eat dry turkey sandwiches for the rest of your life like the rest of your horrible family.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How to Make Roux...........Well it's about damn time!

Ok, this will be the entry where I lose my recipe virginity. I know what the kids on the twitter and the interwebs want. They want recipes. They don't want to hear about my excursions to go pick cherries, eat crabs, or have photo shows; they want to make their own food. So in the spirit of giving, I will cave to your selfish demands.

This is going to be both simple and profound. It's simple to make and then it becomes profound when you get to know how to use it. It's also an obvious choice given the name of my blog/ business. It's called a roux (pronounced roo), and although it may look like a funny French word, it will change the way you cook. So what the hell is it?

Roux, when used properly, will thicken any liquid it is put into. When the liquid comes up to almost a boil the starch in the roux gelatinizes and thickens the liquid being used. It is super helpful for making gravies, sauces and for thickening soups and stews. It sounds like it would be really complicated right? Well, it's not.

If you have never made a roux before, fear not; you can't get any more simple that this:

1 part fat
1 part flour


• Melt fat in a saucepan.

• Whisk in flour until incorporated over medium heat.

• Cook (while stirring every few minutes) until it becomes the shade you are looking for (white, blond, brown, brick).

• Cool in saucepan for 5 minutes, and then pour the roux into a glass or metal container. (Be careful, this shit is like napalm at this point!)

• Let the roux cool until room temperature, then stick it in the fridge.

• Once solid, cut it into cubes and transfer into a plastic bag or plastic container for storage.

• Roux may also be frozen at this point.

One ounce of roux will thicken 8 ounces of liquid thoroughly.

That's it? Yep, that's it dear reader. But what's that you say? What kind of fat and flour? How much is one part? How will I know when its white, blond, or brick? Jesus, do I have to explain all of it for you?........ Yes, actually, yes I do. Let's begin.

For this recipe, when it says "fat" it can mean almost any fat you would like to use. Butter, clarified butter, lard, tallow (beef fat), and vegetable oil would all be acceptable. They all produce the same exact product, albeit with slightly different flavors, and work exactly the same when you use them. Btw, Crisco is not really a good product to use in a roux because it is engineered to melt at such a high temperature that when combined with a liquid and turned into a sauce it will leave a film in your mouth (yuck).

Flour is the easy part of the equation. Just use regular AP (all purpose) or bread flour. Cake flour or pastry flour can be used in a pinch, but do you really keep cake or pastry flour around your kitchen? That's what I thought.

The one part to one part ratio is a standard sliding ratio that can be sized up or down depending on how much roux you want to make. The easiest way to express this would be to take a pound of butter and mix it with a pound of flour (which is what I used in the pictures) and this would produce 2 pounds of roux and you would be set for a long time. You can half that amount by halving the weights of the ingredients. You could also make 33.6547 times more and just adjusted the weights accordingly (if you appreciate odd proportions). Just make sure you are using equal parts (by weight) of fat and flour and you won't go wrong.

Now that you have mixed your melted fat and flour, you need to cook it. Depending on what shade of roux you are looking for, you can be cooking for 5 minutes up to an hour. Generally, you will be using a white roux for 95% of the recipes you use. Unless you plan on making gumbo all of the time, you won't really need to make too many dark rouxs. Luckily, the white roux is the one that only takes 5 minutes to make. You want to cook your roux for at least five minutes to cook the raw flour taste out of the roux. If you don't do this, the sauce or stew you are making with this undercooked roux will have a bit of a doughy taste. Nobody wants to get into some mac and cheese and have it taste like bread dough.

I realize that I have made things seem a little more complicated than they need to be, but I want you to be able and nerd out on someone who would have any questions about making roux. And now that you are a bad ass roux making mother fucker it's time to make something with it. Alas, this entry is only about making roux. That being said, future recipes will prominently feature the mighty roux. Mac and cheese (not that blue box shit), gravies of all kind, and thick soups will all have roux as the ingredient that makes them what they are. For now, just practice your roux making abilities (using water is a cheap way to practice) and get ready for god-like thickening power.