Wednesday, October 5, 2016

How to Make Gravy (and White Sauce)

The first year Zach and I were married, I asked Mom what we should bring to Thanksgiving dinner, in addition to Zach’s famous homemade cranberry sauce. Mom replied that we should bring gravy, and I agreed, not thinking twice about it. However, when I began looking up recipes the night before Thanksgiving, I realized I didn’t have the key ingredient: pan drippings. Not one to be deterred, I looked up a vegan recipe, and even though I didn’t have half of those ingredients either, I began improvising. Zach joined in, and before long we had a pot of lumpy flour and oil, filled with every random flavoring you can imagine. The end result was savory vinegar-flavored pudding, which our family members politely sliced and ate with the mashed potatoes.

I swore I’d never make gravy again.

However, my mother-in-law convinced me to change my mind, walking me through the steps of making gravy from scratch. From her suggestions, I learned how to make a good gravy, even without pan drippings, and from there grew more confident in my skills. I can now whip up gravy or white sauce easily from scratch, which means that I can make mashed potatoes any time, not just after Thanksgiving. Zach is very glad about this.

So here it is, the secret of making gravy (and white sauce)!

There is white sauce on this pasta, I promise! In the meantime, look at how nice my garden tomatoes look.


Equal parts flour and butter. Whole wheat flour works well enough, although white flour has a more traditional flavor. For a big batch of gravy I use 1/4-1/2 cup of each. 

Several cups of broth. I’ve used both chicken and veggie broth before. I imagine turkey or beef broth would also be delicious. The best broth has pan drippings, but honestly, who has pan drippings just sitting around? This recipe works fine, drippings or not.

Salt and lots of pepper (fresh-cracked is the best)

Herbs, optional: sage, bay leaf, thyme, crushed red pepper, etc.

The process:

The secret my mother-in-law taught me is to make a roux first. Simply take a large pan (I love cast iron), melt the butter over medium heat, sprinkle the flour over the top, and whisk the mixture until it starts to smell nice and is penny-colored. A good roux is the key to a non-lumpy gravy!

Once the roux is nice and brown, add a few cups of broth and stir until it thickens. Keep adding broth as needed until you get the consistency you want, whisking constantly. Add salt, pepper, and herbs to taste. 

When the gravy looks just right, serve it immediately. Zach and I like to eat it on mashed potatoes with hot sausages and green beans on the side. It’s easy to make, but feels like a super-fancy dinner!

To make white sauce:

Follow the steps above, but use milk instead of broth. I love a good white sauce with sautéed kale, fresh chopped tomato, and parmesan over pasta, as pictured above.


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