Need urgent help in making gravy from scratch!!
September 29, 2012 3:40 AM   Subscribe

Need urgent help in making gravy from scratch!!

So I followed a friend's suggestion and started making gravy from scratch for a meal for approximately 60 people. I should have made this in advance but I thought it was much simpler!

Basically, since we had no way of getting juices from roasting anything, her suggestion was to cook bones (cow) for hours with a mix of seasonings, celery, carrot and onion. I did this, discarded the whole mix and obtained a kind of stock that is brownish in colour.

Then, to thicken it she advised me to make a roux (butter + flour). I did this (with about one and a half blocks of butter) and added in the stock, with some more carrot and celery and onion. She said I should cook this whole thing for another couple of hours and wait for it to reduce and then I would have the gravy.

What I am staring at now is a not-dark-enough and not-thick-enough mixture. Is there any way I can salvage this? I have only 4 hours before I have to start serving. Should I add salt? What about the caramelised onions?

Thanks for reading this!
posted by heartofglass to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
To thicken, make another roux with equal amounts flour and butter. Then slowly pour in the gravy you have now, stirring the whole time. Use about a cup of gravy per tablespoon of butter/flour. Simmer. It will thicken in about 5 minutes or so. If it really needs to be darker, you can actually add a little soy sauce, unconventional though it may sound. This gives you a nice rich salty flavor too, so don't add any extra salt. You could then stir in the caramelized onions depending on what you're serving the gravy with.
posted by hazyjane at 3:52 AM on September 29, 2012

Best answer: If the flavor is decent, I would add more flour (I'd just mix with enough water to make a thick liquid, but you can add it in as roux if you prefer) and Worcestershire sauce to darken it up (and will also make the flavor a bit richer).
posted by drlith at 3:54 AM on September 29, 2012

Cornstarch mixed with a little water thickens up quickly without causing lumps or separation or greasiness. A very little goes a long way--I'd add a teaspoonful at a time (mixed thoroughly first with enough water to make a thin paste) and see how it goes.
posted by tully_monster at 4:04 AM on September 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Go to the grocery store and buy the largest package of pre-sliced crimini mushrooms they have, or if they don't have those any fresh mushroom will do. The browner the better. Cook the mushrooms in butter in a large pan until they've reduced. Add the cooked mushrooms to the gravy and then use the juice left in the pan to make your roux. Use that to thicken.

If the flavor still isn't strong enough, Maggi sauce. Comes in a brown bottle with a yellow cap and red label, available pretty much everywhere in the world but especially at Asian markets. Add to taste.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:05 AM on September 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'd throw in a couple of packets of gravy mix as well, just as a precaution.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:22 AM on September 29, 2012

Best answer: When you made the stock that you're using as a substitute for roasting juices, how much bones were did you use, and how much water? When I make stock, I typically use a bones & meat scraps to water ratio around 1:1.5 by weight, which is just barely enough water to cover. That makes a rich, flavorful stock. If you had a lot more water in yours then the flavor and color will be proportionately weaker, and you'll need to supplement it with something like the mushrooms or caramelized onions.

Did the cooking for another couple of hours cut the volume significantly? Reducing a large volume of watery stuff takes vigorous boiling and a lot of heat; it's not like the slow simmering process used to make stock.
posted by jon1270 at 4:30 AM on September 29, 2012

You've gotten some great suggestions so far! To add flavor, you could go buy some bouillon packets or cubes, and don't underestimate what salt can do for you. Did you chop up the veggies well or leave them large? I find that cutting carrots into thin coins seems to extract more flavor - maybe you could do that and just let them boil for an hour or so, then remove. And I don't know if this is available where you are, but my grandmother (who makes the best gravy in the entire world) and my mother (who makes the second best gravy in the entire world) always darken up their gravies with a drop of GravyMaster. It doesn't take much but does make a big difference in color.
posted by katie at 4:37 AM on September 29, 2012

If you've got 4 hours you have plenty of time to reduce it further if it isn't thick enough for your liking and you can always add gravy granules at the last minute if it still isn't thick enough.
posted by missmagenta at 4:57 AM on September 29, 2012

The cornstarch will fix it. I'd urge you not to use any gravy mixes or flavour enhancers as they invariably contain MSG and take away from the made-from-scratch taste.
posted by Dragonness at 5:01 AM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Don't worry about darkness, worry about flavor. Does it taste good? That's the only important part of gravy.

Thickness can be radically augmented with a surprisingly small amount of cornstarch or potato starch. Scoop out a ladle of gravy, mix a teaspoon of starch in there, really get it well-combined, then add back to the pot. Stir to combine and bring to a vigorous boil. Become amazed at the thickening power.

If you think it won't throw off the balance of flavors, you could puree the caramelized onions, and some of the other veggies. That will add color as well as thickness, but of a different mouthfeel than a cornstarch or flour roux.
posted by Mizu at 5:19 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

For flavour and colour, I often add a spoon or two of yeast extract spread; like Marmite or Vegemite. Do you have anything similar available? Sounds like cornstarch will do the trick to thicken it up.
posted by teststrip at 5:35 AM on September 29, 2012

My gravy-thickening method: while simmering, I add flour from a sifter while whisking rapidly. I use a squeeze handle sifter so I can sift with one hand while whisking with the other. Corn starch will work too. Add the flour slowly and you won't get lumps.
posted by The Deej at 6:09 AM on September 29, 2012

For future reference:

With a roux: You don't need that much butter, a quarter of a block should do it. Melt it till it starts to sizzle, then stir in a couple of tablespoons of flour to make a paste. Stir the paste around for a brief while if you want to brown your roux (but be careful, it burns easily.) Meanwhile, have your liquid at or near the boiling point. Add that liquid *little by little*. Pour in a splash; stir it into the roux till it all seems paste-like; add a little more; repeat till liquid is gone. Remove from heat and voilĂ .

With cornstarch: have your liquid at or near the boiling point. Measure your amount of cornstarch and set aside in a little bowl. Ladle one or two ladles of boiling liquid into the bowl with the cornstarch. Stir the bowl till the mixture is extremely smooth. Then stir that paste back into the rest of the hot liquid. It will then be thickened with no lumps.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:31 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you do use the cornstarch to thicken the gravy, add the cornstarch to cold water to form a paste, and then add that to the gravy. Heat is what causes the cornstarch to thicken into lumps, so by dissolving it before applying heat really helps.
posted by nulledge at 6:34 AM on September 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

I came in to post exactly what null edge just said. Mix a little cornstarch with cold water, then pour into your gravy and mix in while heating the gravy pretty high. Taste the gravy, how is it?
posted by Joh at 7:25 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Good advice for the thickening already (don't overdue the flour or cornstarch though! No one likes gravy paste) but if the color is bothering you there is a whole class of gravy "browning" products like gravy master that katie mentioned, kitchen bouquet browning and seasoning sauce and similar. You can find them at most any grocery, especially now since it is autumn and thanksgiving is approaching.
posted by tinamonster at 10:22 AM on September 29, 2012

You've probably served it by now, but I support the additional roux method over the cornstarch method. Cornstarch thickens well but I find it adds a weird flavor.

My recipe: 2 tablespoons flour per cup of liquid, then 2/3 the flour volume in butter. Cook flour and butter together (until it browns a bit), then add liquid in bits. To thicken existing gravy, cook the flour and butter in a separate pan, add a bit of your gravy to the flour/butter mixture and mix it smooth, then whisk all of that back into your big pan of gravy.

To add flavor: Wine, mushrooms, and Marmite are all good suggestions.
posted by thirteenkiller at 12:35 PM on September 29, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all your answers! In the end, I put a mix of onions, olive oil and a ladle of the gravy that wasn't as thick in the oven and then added it to the sauce, then a little bit of soy sauce. It got to the consistence I wanted it and it tasted really good. Thanks again!!!
posted by heartofglass at 10:57 AM on September 30, 2012

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