Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Good Gravy

With Turkey Day a week away, I'm pleased to report that the gravy, she is done and in the freezer. This was quite easy to accomplish because I roasted a bone-in turkey breast for a weeknight supper and after slicing off the extra meat for sandwiches, was left with a carved-up carcass just crying out to be used for a higher purpose. The lovely bones of the turkey were enhanced with the remains of two roast chickens from the deep freeze, a few roasted vegetables and a bay leaf or two or three.

The broth was chilled overnight, the yellow fat skimmed off the next day and then clarified with an egg-white raft, and it really worked! The resulting caramel-colored broth was rich with collagen and ready for its turn as gravy, (known in my household as the sixth block of the Food Pyramid).

Here's how I made the broth:

1. I took three poultry carcasses and cleaned them of any nasty looking bits. A smidge of meat is ok, but skin isn't necessary. I hacked the carcasses into several pieces, to make them fit better in the stockpot.

2. Into my largest All-Clad Dutch oven, I poured a glug of canola oil. I suppose you could use olive oil, but that seems like such a waste. In went the veg, all roughly chopped: one carrot, one onion, one stalk of celery. The barest amount of salt to aid the vegetablees in releasing their liquid. Caution is the rule with salt in stockmaking: remember that the liquid will reduce considerably. After about 10 minutes of judicious stirring, add the poultry bones and then cover with cold water from the tap. Do not be tempted to use hot tap water, it may speed the process, but hot tap water may have more minerals in it which could alter the taste of the broth.

3. Toss in a bay leaf or two or three, and let simmer away on stovetop for at least one hour, and not more than three. Be careful to monitor the liquid level and refresh if it gets too low. If a scummy film appears, use a spoon or small sieve to scoop it out. It's always a good idea to skim frequently while stockmaking.

4. When the broth is finished, remove from heat and let cool. The easiest method is to fill a sink with water and ice and place the stockpot in it, accelerating the cooling time. Place the cooled broth, covered in the fridge and the next day, skim off the fat. While the container is still cold, pour three egg whites into the cool broth and set the pan over low heat. Gradually, the broth will heat and the egg whites will cook and gather all the scummy debris from the broth. This may take up to a half hour, so be patient. Occasionally and very gently, use a spatula to pull the egg white off the bottom of the pan. When the broth is clear, remove the pan from heat and scoop out and discard the cooked egg. Let the broth cool.

5. The cooled broth can be further clarified by pouring it through a strainer lined with paper towels. (I tried coffee filters, and my goodness, wasn't that a waste of time.) Take the resulting amber nectar and save for gravymaking at a later time.

Ok, it's gravy time, and here's what you need to do:

1. In a small saucepan, pour a glug of canola oil. This sounds a bit familiar. Add these vegetables, all roughly chopped, one carrot, one onion, one stalk celery. Toss in a bay leaf or two or three. Maybe a pinch of salt, but be vewy careful.

2. Stir the vegetables until they are nice and caramel-colored, about 10 minutes, then add 1/4 cup all-purpose flour. Stir this into the vegetables for an additional 5 minutes or so. Then gradually add 4 cups of warm broth. Strain the broth through a sieve, discarding the solids. Cool and store the gravy in the fridge for a day or so, or place in the freezer until Thanksgiving Day.

3. On Turkey Day, stand by the stove, lovingly stirring the gravy, adjusting the seasoning and admiring your kitchen skills. Homemade gravy without lumps, and not requiring a packet or a pocket or a jar. Just a few essential items from the fridge.

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