One of the things that should be in every cook’s repertoire is gravy. Yet I’m surprised at how often this simple condiment escapes people. Gravy has been around forever and is one of the core sauce recipes.
Gravy, at it’s core, is really only three ingredients: A thickener (usually flour), Fat, and Liquid. In fact, if you’re familiar with white sauce, you’ll notice a similarity. Actually, white sauce IS a kind of gravy, usually called white gravy. Those of you who’ve made the odd turkey dinner and made gravy from the turkey drippings (or from that bag you often get with the turkey) will see that the turkey provides just about everything but the thickening agent. Usually all that bag has in it is some more broth, liquefied corn starch, and some seasoning. But, if you’ve got turkey drippings and no bag, all you really need is some flour and possibly a little more liquid and you can make gravy.
Today, on Cooking with Taco, I’m going to go over the bare essential gravy: a white gravy. White gravy is sometimes called white sauce depending on what you plan to do with it. Both are really just a base sauce that can easily be added to in order to create different gravies and sauce. White gravy/sauce is about as essential a recipe as you’ll find for the kitchen, and it’s really easy to make.
Basic White Gravy
4 tbsp oil or butter
4 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
*Keep to this ratio when making white gravy in any amount: 2 tbsp flour & fat to 1 cup liquid. You can adjust the ratio for thicker or thinner gravy, but this ratio provides a good starting point.
1. The first part is to make the roux. Roux is a cooked mixture of flour and fat, and can be the starting point of any number of dishes; specifically it’s use a lot in savory or creamy soups.
2. Combine fat of choice, flour, salt, and pepper in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. If you’re using butter, melt it in the pan before adding the flour.
3. Cook the mixture stirring constantly until the flour turns a light brown. This is probably the hardest part of the whole process. Cook the roux too long and it’ll char and taste horrible, cook it too short and it’ll taste raw and underdone. You’ll have to cook a lot of it by smell, which will take some practice. The smell you’re going for is when the roux starts to smell “toasty.” It’s really hard to describe, and you may not recognize it until you’ve done gravy a few times. Worry not, even if you under or overcook gravy, it’s still edible. Perhaps not the greatest gravy you’ll ever eat, but you can eat it without issues.
4. At this point it’s a good idea to grab a metal whisk of some sort, because it really helps keep the clumping down while you add the liquid.
5. Whisk the roux as you slowly pour the liquid (milk) in. Don’t worry too much about clumps at this point, as they’re almost impossible to prevent; they should smooth out as you cook.
6. Increase heat to medium and continue to whisk gently until the mixture boils. Reduce to low heat and continue to whisk as it simmers and thickens. It should take less than 5 minutes to get to a smooth consistency. Once it’s smooth, remove from heat; the mixture will continue to thicken as it cools.
7. And there you have it, a simple white gravy.
This can be used as is for a simple white country gravy (for fried chicken, country fried steak, or biscuits) or you can add additional seasonings/ingredients to make a wide array of sauces. Generally, you can add whatever other ingredients you want after the mixture is smooth in part 6; though many powdered seasonings can be added during the roux stage.
You can add cheese for a cheese sauce. Add some chicken stock, heavy cream, chicken, and some vegetables for a creamy chicken soup. Add some sour cream, taco seasoning, and diced peppers for a Tex-Mex sauce. Add some tomatoes, green onions, and some Italian seasoning for a light sauce to go with pasta. Use the butter/oil to sauté some garlic and onions before making the roux in order to punch up the white gravy for biscuits. Replace the oil with ground sausage to make a sausage gravy. The variations that work are endless, and they all start with this basic knowledge of gravy.
Love the gravy. LOVE IT, I SAY!
Erm… I’ll be over here… drinking gravy.
-Confusion is a state of gravy; smooth, creamy gravy.