When people ask me who my inspiration was to become a chef my answer is always my Mom. But it's not for the reason you 'd think. My Mother, God bless her, is not a good cook. Growing up I often ended up being the one who started dinner. Or finished dinner. Heck, I'd even end up cooking the entire meal sometimes. So yes, my Mom can be credited as my inspiration to becoming a chef.
The reason I begin with this story though, is because there are a few things that she makes that are really wonderful-which sort of always confuses me-but nonetheless they are tasty. The first being meatloaf, followed by garlic roasted pork with sauerkraut and gravy. Yes, gravy...the one thing that many cooks seem to always ruin but my cooking impaired Mother can easily whip up. So, growing up, I always thought of gravy as one of the "easy" things to do. And really...it is.
The other day a friend of mine asked if I had a recipe for gravy. The honest answer was "no". I just make it. I pour off some fat, add some stock and seasonings and thicken it with a slurry of cold stock and cornstarch. Taste, adjust seasoning, taste and strain. Voila! Gravy.
My explanation was met with a blank stare. Gravy is not as easy as I think it is. Which leads me to this post...here is a technical recipe for gravy-with measurements and everything! The disclaimer of course being that I have not actually used said recipe because, well...see above.
Pan Dripping from whatever it is you are roasting
Enough Stock to make 3 C. of Liquid when combined with Pan Drippings
*If you are making beef, use beef stock, poultry, use chicken stock...
2 T. Cornstarch
1/4 C. COLD Stock
Optional: Onions, Rosemary, Garlic
1. Drain most of the fat from the pan drippings then pour them into a measuring cup. Pour in enough stock to measure 3 C. when combined.
If using onions, garlic or rosemary, saute them in a saucepan with a little olive oil until translucent. Pour stock mixture over and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid and return it to the saucepan. Continue onto step 2. **You can do this step while your meat is still in the oven. Simply add the drippings later if you'd like to save time.
2. Pour liquid into saucepan and heat just to a boil. While this is heating, combine the cornstarch and COLD stock in a small bowl stirring until there are no lumps. This will become your "slurry".
3. Once stock is heated, whisk in the cornstarch slurry in a steady stream. Allow gravy to thicken with the boil until for about 30 seconds then remove from heat. Season with salt & pepper.
The key to no lumps is two fold: Using a COLD slurry (with no lumps) and whisking it in a steady stream until it thickens. If you follow these steps, you *should* end up with a nice smooth gravy every time.