Monday, November 1, 2010

Back to Basics: Gravy

When my Mister invited me to go to hunting camp with him, he warned me that the meals at camp were less than nutritious. He also warned me that most of the meals come from cans. His favorite meal? Biscuits and gravy.

Ummm...did he really think the canned gravy stood a chance?

 I had planned to pick up a can so I could share with you the rather disgusting ingredients in this so-called gravy, but I just couldn't do it. I don't want my money to go toward this company's sales, thus making them pump more of this toxic filth into the grocery store.

Too harsh? Maybe. While I have never made gravy from a can before, I have always used packaged dry gravy mixes. Always. This is one convenience food that I've had a difficult time giving up. So, since I can't reveal the ingredients of the canned stuff, I can confidently share my knowledge of the packaged stuff.

Because I found a package still in the cabinet.

First, you need to know that gravy is made with 4 parts. Fat or drippings, a liquid, thickener (flour), and some spices. Gravy is even better when there are bits of meat in the drippings or even added after the gravy is made.

This is what I've been using.

If my family never forgave me, I'd understand.

Ingredients: Maltodextrin, modified corn starch, shortening powder (partially hydrogenated soybean oil, corn syrup solids, sodium caseinate, mono and diglycerides, sodium silicoaluminate, dipotassium phosphate), enriched wheat flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), salt, flavor (salt, hydrolized corn gluten and soy protein, sugar, yeast extract, corn starch, partially hydrogenated cottonseed and soy oils, soy flour, chicken fat, dried chicken meat, turmeric, garlic powder, spices disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, natural flavor), monosodium glutamate, chicken powder (rendered chicken fat, nonfat dry milk, dipotassium phosphate, TBHQ, citric acid, silicone dioxide), sugar, flavor (hydrolyzed soy protein, autolyzed yeast extract, chicken flavor, hydrolyzed corn protein, chicken fat, silicon dioxide (an anti-caking agent), onion powder, spices, citric acid, extractives of turmeric, TBHQ
Contains: Milk, soy, wheat

Wow. Did it seem as if there were a lot of repeats? And what is TBHQ? I'll give you a hint. It is derived from petroleum. Read about it here.

Are you hungry yet?

Remember when the dictionary's only purpose at dinnertime was to be used as a booster seat?

I was afraid my Mister was NOT going to be able to enjoy the biscuits and gravy of his youth. It was time for a new plan.

I was not the only female in hunting camp this year. Besides my 2 youngest daughters, my mother-in-law was there also. Thankfully, she knows how to make gravy. So, in the middle of hunting camp, with multiple layers of warm clothing on, over an outdoor cookstove, she taught me to make gravy.

And it was good.

We made a sausage, milk gravy, but this concept can be applied to meat gravies also. I tried it. It worked. Sure makes for a good day when that happens!

Here's how...

After cooking the sausage, remove the meat and set aside. Add 1 cube of unsalted butter to the pan. Melt the butter on medium/low heat, scraping the bottom of the pan to release the stuck on meat pieces.

Because we used venison sausage, there was no fat left in the pan from frying. If you use a fattier meat, adjust the added fat. You may only need half of the cube.

Once the butter is melted, add your thickener. We were camping, so I used the only flour I had, which was an organic all-purpose flour. (At home, I used a pastry flour, but a gluten-free flour, such as rice, would probably work too.) The amount will vary depending on the amount of fat used. Using a whisk, stir in enough flour to make a gluey paste. (Sorry for using the word "gluey" in a recipe!) 

Let it cook for 3 or 4 minutes.

Very quickly, add the liquid. In this case, it was milk. It could also be a broth or juice from the meat, such as turkey "drippings". (Pour turkey/chicken drippings into a jar. The fat that rises can be used in place of butter, leaving the juice to be used as the "liquid")

Keep whisking as you pour, it will have lumps to begin with, but as you whisk, they will disappear. The mixture will seem thin to start with; do NOT add more thickener at this point. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat. Keep stirring. The gravy will continue to thicken as it cooks. This part only took about 5 minutes total. So be patient.

Sometimes you may need to add more flour to the gravy. A neat trick that my MIL told me about was to mix the flour and milk in a lidded jar. Shake vigorously before adding to the gravy. No lumps!

Of course, it's much more fun if Gloria Estefan is playing in the background.

Add your meat (if there is any) back into the pan. Taste the gravy and add salt and pepper as needed.

Serve with homemade buttermilk biscuits or on mashed potatoes.

No dictionary required.

*The package of gravy mix was found to be missing shortly after the photo shoot.

We will not be offering a reward for it's return. 

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