Stop. Put those gravel granules down and put your hands in the air! With Christmas (and every Sunday roast in the meantime) just around the corner, we need to talk about making proper gravy. No bisto, no pucks of gelatinous stock from the cornershop; just a little extra effort for a lot more flavour. Yep,in our opinion, a beautifully imagined meat jus is the single thing that will elevate a good roast dinner to a great one. With that in mind, here are 6 tips for the IDEAL gravy.
IT ALL STARTS WITH STOCK
Without wishing to state the obvious, as the basis of a sauce is liquid, that liquid needs to taste good from the get go. Supermarket stocks, stock cubes and pots; they’re all fine for those in a rush, but they tend to be very salty indeed. This leaves little room later down the line for adding more appropriate, careful seasoning. The backbone of your gravy needs to be subtle, reliable and provide foundation, so start with a homemade stock, preferably free of salt and skimmed attentively so it’s a good shade of clear. If you don’t have time to make your own stock, see if your local butchers stocks stock.
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR ROASTING TRAY
The best gravies and jus are all about layers. In top end restaurants, heaps of process and days of work have gone into them. While no one is expecting you to spend your whole weekend skimming, reducing and deglazing a sauce into a thimble sized measure of lovely liquid, a couple of small measures will add real depth to your gravy.
By browning some extra chicken wings in a hot oven for twenty minutes and adding them to your stock, you’ll add tons of umami to the end product. And after that, deglaze the tray which you roasted the wings in with a little wine, scraping all the delicious bits from the bottom of the pan. Add that to the stock too. Again, pure flavour.
Finally, when you roast your meat, place chunks of onion, carrot, celery and leek below it; it’s all flavour which will go into the gravy. Once your meat is cooked and out of the oven, strain the vegetables and meat juices (excess fat carefully tipped off) from your roasting tray into the stock. Bring it to the boil.
As we’ve mentioned, anytime you have a roasting tray or pan with delicious, caramelised loveliness adhered to the bottom, you should deglaze it with a little wine (colour appropriate to your meat). Do this to your roasting tray, on the hob, once your meat is resting somewhere peaceful.
MAKE A ROUX
Add to your roasting tray equal quantities of butter and flour to make a roux, butter first until it melts, then flour whisked in. This will thicken your sauce to the requisite, gravy-like consistency. Cook it out a little to avoid a floury taste.
It’s time now to add your much adulterated, flavourful, hot stock to the roasting tray. Add in stages, whisking as you go. You’re going to want to add more than you need, as reducing the liquid over high heat intensifies the flavour of the gravy. The time you have (how long your meat needs to rest, basically) should dictate how much stock you add.
Once you’ve reduced your liquid to the required volume and consistency, season thoughtfully and bring off the heat. For a final, luxurious gloss, whisk in some cold cubes of butter.