A CookBook Recipes & Other Stuff or How to Keep the Kids from Developing Beriberi After They've Moved Away From Home

Monday, July 24, 2006

Like Oil and Water or How to Make Gravies and Sauces

The basic idea behind any sauce is the mixing of oils/fats and water - and keeping them mixed. The way to do this is to form an emulsion using some third element - here, I'll only deal with using flour - but other things can be used - like eggs (for hollandaise and mayonnaise).

Since flour tends to get lumpy when mixed with water, the best way is to mix the flour with the fat first and blend them together well - which is easier when the fat is in liquid form. Then the water ( or any liquid ) can be added and the resulting mixture heated to allow the flour to thicken it.


I think what makes gravy hard for people is that there are no recipes for it - the amounts are not absolute - but after all, this is cooking - not a chemistry experiment. You'll have to learn to judge how much gravy you can obtain from any given roast - mostly by the amount of brown stuff remaining in the pan

If you've roasted something and want to make gravy - I suppose that is what gravy is - a sauce made from the stuff leftover in the pan when the roast is removed - first pour off all the fat into a heatproof container. Now all the stuff you've poured off may not be fat - some may be juices from the meat - in other words - water! So cool the fat a bit and see if the fat rises to the top and skim it off - water in the fat will make your gravy lumpy. Save the broth remaining on the bottom to use as liquid for the gravy.

Take the fat you've recovered (if you've gotten a really large amount of fat - like 2 cups - don't use all of it) and add an equal amount of flour. Stir to make a paste like mixture.

Now there are two ways to go from here - either should be fine because you'll get an emulsion either way. You can first deglaze the pan with some liquid - this means adding some liquid to the pan, heating it to boiling and then scraping up all that brown protein stuff which make the gravy a nice brown and adds the flavor. You can use some wine, milk, broth, or water, or a mixture of liquids. Then you can add the fat/flour paste and while stirring constantly - so it will emulsify evenly and then heat it to simmer until it thickens. If it seems to get too thick - add a bit more liquid. Conversely, if it's too thin, add more of the paste. Season to taste and you're all done!

Some people add the oil/flour paste to the pan first - they believe it takes away a certain floury taste if the flour cooks a bit before adding the liquid (but if you burn the flour it will taste bad and the flour won't thicken the gravy as well). If you're careful - I doubt it matters much which you do first - so do whatever makes you happy ...

While you're practicing making gravy you should keep a jar of store bought gravy on hand - add some wine and a few herbs - most people won't ever know the difference ( but I will ).

Veloute/Bechamel/Cheese Sauce

These are really all the same thing - cooking can be a bit redundant - so if you can do one, you can do them all. They are much easier than gravy because you actually have a set amount of things to add - and you don't have to deal with an awkward size roasting pan on top of your stove - you can use a nice saucepan.

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup broth (for veloute) milk ( for bechamel or cheese)

Melt butter in pan.

Add flour and mix with a whisk til smooth.

Pour in liquid slowly while whisking.

Keep whisking and bring to a boil to thicken.

For cheese sauce add a few handfuls of whatever cheese you like.

For a thicker sauce use 3 talblespoons each butter/flour, for thinner, 1 tablespoon of each.

Cook for a bit and adjust seasoning ( this means add spices and herbs or whatever, but carefully - carefully because you can't take out stuff you've put in - so do it a little and taste after each addition).

When you've mastered all this you can make all kinds of intricate stuff - like canneloni, chicken croquettes, macaroni and cheese, Christmas dinner and I can let you cook dinner and your kitchen will be a mess instead of mine ....



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