Gravy made with a roux often accompanies turkey and mashed potatoes. The classic preparation uses the pan drippings from your holiday bird to add intense flavor and a velvety texture to your meal's centerpiece, but you can make a roux gravy to amp up an everyday chicken or to top Salisbury steak.
A roux combines equal parts fat from oil, butter, or renderings, and flour. It can be used as the base of a sauce or as a thickener in dishes such as clam chowder.
Roux ranges in color from pale to deep brown, darkening the longer you cook it. A lighter roux preserves the flavor of the fat, whether butter or pan drippings or lard, whereas a darker roux takes on its own nutty, caramelized character. You can adjust your final result depending on how you plan to use the roux. For example, you want clam chowder to retain a creamy color, so a light quick-cooked roux works best. Gumbo, on the other hand, can benefit from a deeper, more complex-tasting roux. For a holiday gravy, you might prefer something in between, perhaps in the color range of peanut butter.
The Basic Formula
To make a roux gravy, start with 2 tablespoons of fat, 2 tablespoons of flour, and 1 cup of liquid to equal 1 cup of gravy. Choose broth, milk, or heavy cream, depending on how rich and decadent you want the finished product. You can also combine smaller amounts of heavy cream or wine with broth for added texture and flavor.
Judge the amount of fat or oil in the pan drippings after you cook your turkey or another piece of meat. Determine how much gravy you need, then adjust the fat or oil amount up or down if necessary according to the basic formula. You can add butter or cooking oil or rendered bacon grease or lard.
Prepare the gravy right in the roasting pan (first pouring off any extra fat beyond the amount you need for gravy), which allows you to scrape up the brown bits of flavor stuck to the bottom. Or transfer the drippings into a clean saucepan or skillet. Bring the fat back up to a medium-low temperature if it cooled.
Sprinkle an equal amount of all-purpose or Wondra flour onto the hot fat and cook it, whisking continuously, for at least 5 minutes over low heat to remove the raw flavor of the flour. Add the corresponding ratio of liquid slowly to the roux while continuing to whisk it. Bring it to a simmer whisking continuously to prevent lumps until it reaches your desired thickness. Keep in mind that the gravy continues to thicken as it stands, so resist the urge to speed up the process by adding additional flour.
To thin the gravy, add a little more broth. To thicken runny gravy, cook it a little longer. Unless you started with a heavily seasoned piece of meat, you probably need to add salt and pepper before you pull the gravy off the stove. As a general rule, stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt for each cup of liquid, but taste first.
Use a fat separator if the gravy seems greasy.
For an exceptionally smooth gravy, strain it through a sieve into your serving boat or bowl.
To learn more about gravy, check out these other helpful articles:
Or look at these books for more in-depth information:
- "The Complete Book of Sauces" by Sallie Y. Williams (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1995)
- "The Sauce Bible" by David P. Larousse (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1993)