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Gravy help tonight

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I have to tell you I don't know what makes a good gravy. That doesn't mean I can't make a good gravy, I can. It's just not a sure-fire thing every time.

My problem is sometimes I just can't get it thick enough. What iv'e done in the past is use cornstarch dissolved in a bit of liquid, then mixed into the gravy base. Most times this works, but sometimes not. What is going on here and what should I do to get repeatable results?

Tonight I'll be doing fried chicken. Right now I have some of the cuttings from the cut up chicken simmering in some canned chicken broth.

Thanks for the help. Hopefully it'll be in time for dinner tonight..
post #2 of 9
Have you ever tried making a rioux(sp)?
post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
Yes I have, but I don't really know exactly what or wht I'm doing what I do!

Sounds like I'm a lousy cook huh?

Chicken is now out of the buttermilk, seasoned, ready to flour and fry.

Gravy base seperated from chicken parts, back on simmer.

30 minutes till dinner.
post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
Tonight, all worked out well
post #5 of 9
The five most common problems with corn starch used as a thickener:

1. Overcooking. Corn starch achieves it's maximum thickening immediately after coming to a boil. At a lower temperature it barely thickens at all. Corn starch is best added with the liquid fully cooked and at the boil (or a fast simmer, at least). The sauce will thicken immediately, and the heat should be reduced immediately thereafter. After boiling, any heat higher than necessary to hold at serving temp (150deg F) is excessive and will break the starch down.

2. Undercooking. Ditto.

3. Acid. Cornstarch loses its efficacy very quickly in acidic sauces. Citrus, dry wines, vinegars are not friends to cornstarch. Based on no evidence whatsoever, I'd guess this is your problem. The solution (pardon the pun) is to use arrowroot instead of corn starch. Arrowroot has its own rules.

4. Bogus slurry. Cornstarch works best if it's completely dissolved in a slurry before being added to the sauce. Measure cornstarch into a small glass or dish, and add non-acidic liquid in the proportion of 1 cornstarch to 1-1/2 to 4 liquid, whisk thoroughly until corn starch is completely dissolved. Whisk the slurry bit by bit into the sauce until the desired consistency is achieved.

5. Bad proportions. The usual ratio for a gravy is 2 tbs corn starch and 4 tbs water mixed to a slurry, into 2 cups of liquid.

Making a roux (spelled ROUX, pronounced Roo):

Fat, either oil, lard, shortening or butter, is heated over medium heat. Flour in an equal volume to the fat is added to the roux. In these proportions the mixture will seem lumpy and thick -- "gloopy" is a good term for it. The roux must be stirred constantly until the flour has cooked. The usual professional terminology (in English, obviously) calls this "cooking the raw off." The most obvious signal is that the flour no longer smells raw. This light colored mixture is called a "blond roux," and is suitable for making light colored sauces. If a darker roux is desired, the heat is REDUCED slightly, and the flour in the roux is allowed to slowly toast, while being stirred constantly. If aromatics such as onion are used, they are usually cooked in the oil before adding the flour, then made a part of the roux.

A cold liquid may be added to a hot roux, and brought to the boil. Or room temperature roux may be added to boiling liquid. Or hot roux may be added to boiling liquid. Cold roux will not thicken properly. The roux will fully thicken within a few minutes of the full boil being achieved. A sauce thickened with roux may be further reduced.

The type of gravies most often used for fried chicken, "cream" gravies, are best made with a roux employing some of the seasoning flour and a bit of the frying oil, using the chicken frying pan. Typical proportions might be 2 tbs oil, 2 tbs flour, 2 cups milk (bechamel base -- "white gravy"); 2 tbs oil, 2 tbs flour, 2 tbs chicken stock (veloute base -- "yellow gravy"); 2 tbs oil, 2 tbs flour, 1 cup each milk and stock (ac/dc base). Note that to achieve the normally desired consistency, the ratio to remember is 1 cup liquid to each tbs flour and each tbs fat.

Help any?
post #6 of 9,
Glad to hear dinner was a success.:lips:

Boar de laze,
That dark roux sounds interesting, does the dark roux have a different flavour than the blonde, assuming of course it's just the fat and the flour?
post #7 of 9
Yes. Think of gumbo as it's classically made with a very dark roux for the added flavor. Although as the roux gets darker, it loses some of its thickening power.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #8 of 9
Yes, it does. Blonde roux, assuming "the raw" was properly cooked off (not too fast, not too slow, plenty of agitation), has very little taste. A dark roux has a distinct toastiness. Use the right heat on a butter based roux -- about medium or a tiny bit less -- and the milk solids will brown at the same rate making a roux noisette, which adds a hazelnut quality from the butter to the toast quality of the flour. Your nose knows.

Dark roux forms the basis for a ton of cajun cooking like etouffes, gumbos and sauce picantes. But when you're cooking cajun, their terminology varies, which is a nice way of saying mine is wrong. They refer to the range from peanut butter to milk chocolate colored as medium rouxs, and to dark chocolate colored as dark. The latter is too dark, in my opinion. Not because of taste, but because the timing is quite difficult. It's right on the ragged edge of burnt and is extremely hit or miss for someone (like me) who doesn't cook them all the time. I think most cooks and chefs with a French background would put honey to peanut butter as medium, and peanut butter to milk chocolate as dark -- and anything darker as dangerous waters.

Bottom line, I stop at milk chocolate and you probably should too, until you've done it a few times. Remember not to hurry it. You can always turn the heat up, but there's no going back from scorching either the butter or the flour.

post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 

Tnx 2 Bdl

:) Your very informative reply was most helpfull.

I'll be drawing on that in the future for sure.

Of particular note was the reasoning of why this or that is done.

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