Serving Meat or Not, It’s All About the Gravy

Every cook who ever plans to impress family and friends with a beautifully roasted or seared or fried piece of meat eventually realizes that the important part of the meal isn’t the meat. It’s the gravy!

Generally, folks know what a type of meat tastes like by the time they’re guests at a gathering or restaurant or lunchroom. But a well made gravy to accompany a meat dish is always a happy surprise.

Homemade gravies, sauces as some call the savory liquid that makes a meal even more special, add flavors, depth, memories (how many times have you heard that someone’s mother, or nana, or favorite diner made a gravy “just this tasty”?) to the meal.

Like a delicious dessert at the end, the gravy carries taste, completeness and an upbeat mood to the beginning of a plate laden with meat and sides. It’s quite an overlooked player on the table. An invited friend might ask what you’re serving, ham, chicken, fish, but few ask if there’s going to be gravy. It’s assumed there will be. And there better be, if you want a successful meal.

The following recipes will show how easy it is to make a savory gravy. They work for any meat meal and can be improved to your taste by simply adding spices. There’s even a gluten-free vegetarian gravy that can pretty much accompany any type of meal.

This holiday season, try adding a little excitement to lunch or dinner by experimenting with a gravy for mashed potatoes or other veggie, or offer biscuits and gravy for a lighter meal. You can also pour a freshly-made gravy into a clean jar and put a ribbon on it and you have a Christmas gift. Because pretty much, it’s all about the gravy.

Classic Meat Gravy

A versatile gravy that takes on the taste of the meat that made it

CLASSIC MEAT GRAVY

1/4 C of the pan drippings from cooking the meat for a meal

4 Tbls of flour

2 Cs chicken, beef, or other meat broth or stock. Use a broth that matches the dinner meat

1/2 C milk

 Salt and pepper to taste

Spices to taste, for ex., cayenne powder, garlic powder, paprika

Cook, fry or roast the chicken or other meat as usual and when done, drain off all but about 1/4 c. of the oil from the pan in which the meat was cooked. In a separate bowl, whisk flour and spices (to taste, but don’t overdo). Then add to the oil in the pan, whisking slowly to blend until the flour has absorbed the oil.  Slowly whisk in the meat or vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Whisk constantly and reduce heat to a simmer.

Once the gravy starts to thicken, slowly add milk (you may not need all of it) to thin gravy to desired consistency, whisking constantly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over the meat, the potatoes, etc., or as a side for diners to take what they need. Depending on the size of the cooked meat, the gravy will serve four to six meals.

Note: This is a basic recipe and will work with any cut of meat (not fish) that is fried, roasted or otherwise cooked.

Red Wine Gravy

Red wine enhances the flavors in a gravy or sauce

RED WINE GRAVY

8 Tbls unsalted butter, divided

3/4 C finely chopped shallots, from 2-3 large shallots

1-1/4 Cs dry red wine (cabernet, merlot, etc. as long as it’s a dry wine, which delivers more taste)

3 Cs beef broth

6 fresh thyme sprigs

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp sugar

2 Tbls all-purpose flour

 Melt 5 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the shallots and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the wine, beef broth, thyme sprigs, salt, pepper and sugar, and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by about half.

While the liquid is reducing, place the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a small bowl and soften in the microwave, if necessary (it should be soft but not melted). Add the flour and, using a small spoon, mix into a smooth paste.

Once the wine mixture is reduced, reduce the heat to low and remove the thyme sprigs. Whisk the flour-butter paste, a teaspoonful at a time, into the simmering liquid, and simmer for a few minutes, until the sauce is thickened. Set aside. (The sauce can be made up to this point and refrigerated up to 3 days ahead of time. Reheat before serving.) Makes four to six servings

Vegetarian Gravy

Easy and tasty and can be made gluten free

VEGETARIAN GRAVY

5 Tbls butter (can sub a vegan option such as Earth Balance)

1/2 C finely diced yellow onion

1/4 C all-purpose flour (gluten-free flour can be used)

2 C low-sodium vegetable broth

1 Tbls Tamari or soy sauce (optional)

Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 8-10 minutes. If they start to turn brown, turn down the heat – you want translucent and tender, not golden. When tender, increase the heat to medium. Stir in the flour a little at a time, then cook, stirring frequently, for three minutes.

Gradually stir in the vegetable broth and continue stirring over medium heat until thickened to a gravy consistency you like, usually about 3 – 5 minutes. If gravy becomes too thick, add a bit of water or vegetable broth to the mix, slowly, until consistency becomes more fluid. Stir in Tamari or soy sauce if using.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve. Makes about 6 servings.

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