If you aren’t hip to making gravy from the drippings and you are grossed out by the weird autolyzed and hydrolyzed ingredients in the jarred gravies around the holidays, this is easy and delicious; you can substitute gluten free flour as well.
Is it possible to make really good all-purpose gravy without a roast, using only canned broth and a few vegetables?
SERVES 8 to 10 (Makes 2 cups)
TIME 55 minutes
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
Gravy, by definition, is a thickened sauce made of meat juices and pan drippings, usually left over from a roast. But what if you don’t have a roast on hand and want gravy for some mashed potatoes or pork chops? We wanted to create a top-notch, all-purpose gravy that could be made quickly, without any special ingredients. When we began our tests, we assumed that some combination of supermarket broths and sautéed vegetables thickened with flour would be most likely to give us the results we wanted. But water and vegetable broths made for flavorless gravies, while chicken and beef broths alone dominated the gravy. Equal amounts of chicken and beef broth, however, provided a meaty yet balanced base.With our broth mixture determined, we turned to the vegetables. A standard mirepoix (a mixture of onions, carrots, and celery) lightly sautéed in oil contributed a rounded sweetness and body, but it failed to accent the gravy’s meatiness or to impart any roasted flavor. In most gravy recipes, the fond (the browned bits at the bottom of a roasting pan) provides concentrated flavor and an appealing nutty-brown color. It occurred to us that we could create similar bits of rich, caramelized flavor by developing a vegetable fond. We were right; simply extending the cooking time and sautéing the vegetables until they were well browned resulted in a more pronounced roasted, meaty flavor. Switching from oil to butter (for more flavor) and chopping the vegetables in a food processor (for smaller, more uniform pieces) further enhanced our fond. Our final step was to thicken the gravy. We tried a variety of techniques but got the best results by sprinkling a little flour into the sautéed vegetables to create a classic roux. The gravy was getting better, but it still lacked depth. We borrowed a method from Creole gumbos and took our roux far past the pale blond shade of our previous tests, cooking it until it became the color of milk chocolate. This simple technique developed complex flavor elements, provided an unexpectedly rich roasted flavor, and added a meaty intensity. Together with the caramelized vegetable fond, the darkened roux lent the gravy a rich, deep brown color. A classic combination of dried thyme, bay leaf, and peppercorns finished our surprisingly simple yet deeply flavorful gravy.
GATHER YOUR INGREDIENTS
1 small carrot, peeled and chopped into rough 1/2-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)1 small rib celery, chopped into rough 1/2-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)1 small onion, chopped into rough 1/2-inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)3 tablespoons unsalted butter¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour2 cups low-sodium chicken broth2 cups low-sodium beef broth1 bay leaf¼ teaspoon dried thyme5 whole black peppercornsVIEW INGREDIENTSView Nutritional Informationi
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
This gravy can be served with almost any type of meat or poultry or with mashed potatoes. If you would like to double the recipe, use a Dutch oven to give the vegetables ample space for browning and increase the cooking times by roughly 50 percent. The finished gravy can be frozen. To thaw either a single or double recipe, place the gravy and 1 tablespoon of water in a saucepan over low heat and bring slowly to a simmer. The gravy may appear broken or curdled as it thaws, but a vigorous whisking will recombine it.
In food processor, pulse carrot until broken into rough 1/4-inch pieces, about five 1-second pulses. Add celery and onion; pulse until all vegetables are broken into 1/8-inch pieces, about five 1-second pulses.
Heat butter in large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat; when foaming subsides, add vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and well browned, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until thoroughly browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Whisking constantly, gradually add broths; bring to boil, skimming off any foam that forms on surface. Reduce heat to medium-low and add bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns; simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to 3 cups, 20 to 25 minutes.
Strain gravy through fine-mesh strainer into clean saucepan, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve hot.