Gravy training

Cooking 101

December 21, 2005|By LIZ ATWOOD | LIZ ATWOOD,SUN REPORTER

Did your Thanksgiving gravy turn out to be a disappointing companion to the turkey, mashed potatoes and dressing?

Don't worry. There's still time to learn how to make a great gravy to serve with your Christmas and New Year's dinners.

Chef Ian Vair, instructor at Baltimore International College, says the most common mistake cooks make in preparing gravy is not having the right proportions of fat, liquid and cornstarch or flour.

There are two basic ways to make gravy. One begins with a roux, a mixture of fat and flour, and the other begins with a cornstarch slurry, a mix of cornstarch and cold water.

Vair said he prefers the roux method because it uses the drippings from the roast beef or poultry and makes a more flavorful gravy. (If you don't have drippings, you still can make the roux with butter or oil.) But either the roux or slurry method will work to make gravy.

The first ratio to keep in mind is 50-50. That's the ratio of cornstarch to water in the slurry and of fat to flour in the roux. The second ratio is 8 to 1. That's the amount of stock to thickener.

The final tip, Vair says, is to make sure to simmer the gravy for about 30 minutes after adding the thickener to eliminate the starchy taste.

liz.atwood@baltsun.com

THE TECHNIQUE

Ian Vair, chef instructor at Baltimore International College's culinary arts program, shows how to make gravy.

1. Place stock on a burner and add cup of mirepoix (celery, onion and carrots roasted with the beef or poultry) for flavor. Simmer for 30 minutes.

2 & 3. For the roux method (left), combine drippings from the roasted beef or poultry with an equal part flour and mix until it has the consistency of wet sand. For the slurry method (right), combine cornstarch with an equal part cold water.

4. Bring the stock to a full boil (large, rapid bubbles). Add the roux or slurry to the stock a little bit at a time, stirring constantly with a wire whisk until the gravy reaches desired consistency.

5. Vair says gravy has the proper consistency when it clings to the back of a spoon.

6. Simmer the gravy for 30 minutes to eliminate starchy taste, then strain, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

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