Have you noticed that food preparation has become a spectator sport? Folks are entertained by celebrity chefs, competitive cook-offs and elaborate baking competitions.
2012 marks what would have been the 100th birthday of television’s first celebrity cook, Julia Child. She was not creating meals out of “six ingredients from a vending machine” as a recent competition featured; Julia taught basic techniques and the enjoyment of cooking and food.
This holiday season, I suggest we adopt the spirit of Julia.
(Relax — it doesn’t have to be perfect!) Prepare some items ahead of time, enjoy the day—and have the relatives bring dessert!
Here’s how most professional chefs make gravy:
Most of the preparation is done ahead, and it is simply finished with the pan juices. Start with prepared chicken stock, or, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you can make your own. The trick is to have a stock that is very flavorful, even slightly over-seasoned. Bring it to a boil, thicken it with a butter roux and then add the pan juices for authentic flavor.
(Makes about 5 cups)
1 stick butter or margarine
9 Tbsp. flour
3 ½ cups turkey or chicken stock
1 cup water
Pan juices from turkey
Let’s get started:
Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Make a roux by gradually wisking in the flour; continue to stir over medium heat as it bubbles and browns. Set aside.
Bring your stock to a boil and season it with pepper and poultry seasoning. Wisk in some of the roux, letting the mixture thicken as it cooks until you have the consistency that you like. Let this simmer while you harvest the pan juices.
Remove the turkey from your roaster and put the roaster on your stovetop. Spoon off the obvious turkey fat then turn on the heat, add a cup of water and “deglaze” the pan (scrape off all the brown crusty chunks and stir them into the liquid). Now take this liquid and add it to your gravy. You might want to pour it through a strainer to get out the chunks that have not dissolved.
Adjust the consistency and seasoning to your taste. You probably will have extra roux: freeze it for later use.
Once you have mastered the method of making a sauce or gravy, you can adapt it to other dishes by changing up the stock, seasoning and consistency. For example, add tarragon for an excellent sauce with chicken, or add Parmesan cheese for delicious Alfredo sauce.
Have a wonderful holiday season. As Julia Child often said, bon appetit!
• Rasmussen has run the cozy Countryside Café in Hamel, Minn. for 37 years. She and her crew have served more than 3 million meals in this 55-seat restaurant on the western outskirts of Minneapolis. For more recipes, visit www.PegsCountrysideCafe.com.