Saturday, November 28, 2009

Frying by the seat of my pants – part 1: Good Gravy

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day, surrounded by loved ones – hopefully NOT working, except in the kitchen! We had a very pleasant day, a theme which has continued through the long weekend. We are getting 5 days off this weekend as our Thanksgiving holiday overlaps the Eid al-Adha holiday. We’re not complaining!

Among the usual things that I find myself thankful for this weekend (by name, Brad, Brian, Honor, and add in this year: Pumpkin, Pixie and Ninja :) !), is that we were able to pull off a lovely dinner despite the lack of decent cookware or access to my favorite recipes. Our dinner turned out nice, very nice! The only disappointment was that friends who were to join us for the dinner had to cancel because their child became ill. We’re just going to have to have a make-up day.  (I hope Z feels better!)

As I looked over the mess in the kitchen after our amazing dinner, for which, quite literally, we’d used every pan and dish in the house – some several times – I couldn’t help but think that this was truly a flying by the seats of our pants operation.


Decide a course of action as you go along, using your own initiative and perceptions rather than a pre-determined plan or mechanical aids.

Except, we were cooking, not flying, so this title idea was born (or at least, stuck in my head) and I’ll use it to share some recipes, and because I only had one actual dish, gravy, that used the fry pan, I suppose I’ll start with that, even though it was the last thing I cooked!

This is a simple recipe – experienced cooks probably didn’t need to see it, although additional hints and suggestions are always welcome in the comments! This is mainly for people, like the young me, who never learned how to make gravy at mom’s elbow. I was always a bit intimidated with the gravy recipes I found – they sounded complicated and unforgiving… especially nerve-wracking when you are attempting to put together a spectacular holiday meal. This is a simple technique and you can practice with roast chickens before being put on the spot with a turkey dinner!

Good Gravy:

As soon I got the turkey going, I dumped the giblets, including the neck, into a saucepan with water, bouillon, some sprigs of fresh rosemary, and set it to simmer. I kept it simmering, adding water as needed, until the turkey was done. I used some of this broth in the stuffing, then added more water and continued simmering.

When the turkey was done, I set it aside to rest for 20 or so minutes (so important!) and started the gravy. I put 2-3 tablespoons of the drippings (yes, the oily stuff – gravy is not a diet food, either do it right or forget it!) from the turkey pan into a frying pan over low heat. I added 2 tablespoons of flour to the side of the oil, and with a spoon, slowly mixed the flour and drippings to a paste. Then I added a scoop (I used a 1/4 cup measuring cup – but the official measurement = some) of broth and slowly mixed it into the paste … this often involves tipping the pan a bit to keep the ingredients apart until blending is done little by little. It helps to avoid lumps. Then I added a couple more scoops of broth, and let it simmer. For some reason, starting off slow like this works best for me, but I use a simple trick to add broth/flour/drippings more quickly to increase the gravy without a lot of that lump-preventing stirring and pan tipping.  On the side I took a covered container (like a rubbermaid or tupperware storage container) and combined a tablespoon or two of drippings, same of flour, and a couple scoops of broth – put the lid on, and shook vigorously (glad I default do this over the sink – my container was not happy with this abuse and leaked a bit!). This mixture was whisked into the gravy base in the pan, and more broth added until it was rather thin. I know my family loves gravy, so I mixed up about 2 more containers worth of broth/drippings/flour to add to the pan, adding less broth with the last batch, and made a huge bowl of gravy. It thickens as you cook it, keep whisking as you go. More of the drippings and flour mix help thicken it, more broth helps thin the gravy.

This gravy saves well, although warms up best on the stove, not in the microwave, and I saved the broth to make more gravy if/when we run out… we do have lots of leftovers!

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