Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Six Troubleshooting Tips for Perfect Gravy

When it comes time to prepare this traditional sauce on Thanksgiving Day, even the most practiced home cook can be reduced to, well, gravy. Perhaps that's because making gravy feels like a test -- as if the results somehow measure our proficiency in the kitchen. Or that we think whisking up gravy should be child's play, although our own experiences have proved otherwise. Too proud to admit defeat, we improvise each year, following what we remember of mother's technique or a segment on the Food Network, and either end up with so-so gravy or with good results without quite knowing why. Gosh, don't you wish you took notes or TIVOed your favorite chef?
So what happens when you're finishing up at the stove as the family waits at the table in anticipation of a delicious meal and you find that your gravy falls short of expectations? Here are some simple solutions from Martha Stewart.com to six common problems.

Troubleshooting Tips:
1. If it seems greasy, use a fat separator to eliminate the problem. If you discover that your gravy is oily toward the end of its preparation, skim off as much fat as possible with a wide-bowled spoon.

2. If it's chalky or doughy tasting, make sure the flour has been cooked long enough: When flour is added to the pan drippings or butter, whisk constantly while the mixture cooks until it turns a deep golden brown and smells nutty. If the gravy tastes floury when you're almost finished, turn up the heat to maintain a rapid simmer for several minutes; thin it again with more stock or water if necessary.

3. If the gravy has lumps, strain it just before serving, using a fine sieve; discard any solids.

4. If the gravy is too thin, simmer it over medium-high heat, allowing the liquid to reduce. If it is still too thin, add a beurre manie: Make a paste of equal parts flour and softened unsalted butter, and add it a little at a time, whisking constantly, until the gravy thickens.

5. If it's too thick, gradually whisk a little stock or water into the gravy until it reaches the desired consistency.

6. If it lacks flavor, adjust the seasoning as necessary with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. If you use canned stock instead of homemade, the gravy might lack depth of flavor. Homemade stock, even made with chicken rather than turkey, will produce a superior gravy, so it's worth the effort.

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