Gravy is a vital part of the Thanksgiving meal to many people. For Chef Jill, Lead Instructor and Chef here at The Culinary Center of Kansas City, it also brings memories of time spent in the kitchen with her Grandma Muriel, learning the tips and tricks to making the gravy just right.
Grandma Muriel started with the basics. She said you need a cast iron skillet, a whisk and the following ingredients – flour, butter, chicken broth and cream.
Now, apparently it took awhile that first day of gravy making with Jill, because Grandma Muriel made her wash the pan and restart every time she made a mistake. Don’t get too hung up on the details. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, use a standard frying pan. If you don’t have cream, use milk or half-and-half. You get the idea.
Jill cautions that if you use a stainless steel pan, you should make sure to let it get fairly hot before you add any ingredients, particularly fats, to your pan. If you add anything too soon, it will stick to the pan.
Grandma Muriel broke down gravy-making to a formula. Use equal parts of fat + starch to 4-8 parts of liquid.
Chef Jill recommends 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter (using unsalted butter allows you to control the amount of salt in your gravy – you’ll add it later.) Melt the butter in your hot pan. When it starts getting a bit ‘foamy’, add your 2 tablespoons of starch (Chef Jill uses all-purpose flour). Just so you know, you’re creating a roux right now. Create your roux by stirring your flour around, mixing it with your butter, then cook that roux until it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan a bit and the color starts to deepen. Ideally it should look about the color of peanut butter and it will start to smell nutty. (Note that the darker the roux, the longer it will take to thicken.) Another one of Grandma Muriel’s rules for gravy-making – never stop whisking.
Once the roux is cooked, add a cup of liquid. Chef Jill likes to use an even mixture of chicken broth or stock and cream (feel free to use milk or half-and-half). (You may find that you want to use more liquid in your gravy, unless you like a thick gravy.)
Remember Grandma Muriel’s rule – as you add the liquid, never stop whisking. Keep stirring until it thickens in order to avoid the dreaded gravy lumps! Stirring also activates the gluten in the flour and helps the gravy thicken. (For a gluten-free gravy, try cornstarch instead of flour.) Once your gravy thickens, add salt and pepper to taste.
Wondering if your gravy is ready? Grab a spoon and dip the back side of it into the gravy. Run your finger through the film of gravy on the spoon. If it stays in place and doesn’t run, your gravy is ready to serve! But gravy thickness is a personal preference. Serve it how you love it.
Watch the video below to see Chef Jill in our CCKC kitchen, sharing family photos and memories, creating a tasty gravy and adding some extra tips & tricks along the way.
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