Wednesday, November 16, 2011

If you Make the Gravy, You're Always Welcome

Thanksgiving is a holiday about sharing food and fun, whether with family or friends. Many families have traditional gatherings that have been ongoing for years and years. And many hosts include friends who are far from family. If you want to be a guest who is always welcome, volunteer to make the gravy!

Many years ago I learned about making smooth gravy in my college foods classes. Of course, the method concentrated on the science involved but the result was smooth gravy.

Here's my "recipe" for turkey gravy. After the turkey is roasted, remove it from the roasting pan and tent it with aluminum foil to keep it warm. It's easier to carve after resting about 15 minutes. Pour all of the drippings into a measuring cup and allow to settle, the fat will rise to the top. The secret is mixing the flour with fat but not liquid. I have a plastic measuring cup with a spout that pours out the liquid or you can carefully spoon the fat off the top.

For 4 cups gravy, use 1/2 cup drippings (fat only), 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 4 cups broth or water.

Use equal amounts of fat and flour, allowing 2 tablespoons for each cup of gravy. For liquid, use broth or water or a combination. My mom always used the water drained from the potatoes. I cook the gravy in a 3 quart saucepan. Combine the fat and flour in the saucepan and cook until well mixed and bubbly. Add 2 cups of the liquid and whisk constantly until the gravy thickens. (I find it hard to add the liquid gradually without having lumps form  so I add it all at once.) Once it's thickened, add more liquid to the right consistency and season with salt and pepper. After pouring the drippings out of the roasting pan, scrape the browned bits to add after the gravy it's cooked. These bits are bursting with flavor. Preheat your gravy boat and serve velvety smooth gravy with the meal. (If you find lumps in the gravy, just strain it before serving!)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Green Herbs and Blue Grass

The Desert Botanical Garden located in north Phoenix highlights cactus families and desert plants and something is always blooming. In November they are hosting special events and diverse music groups. The extraordinary glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly glow as you approach the entrance in the darkness.

Last week my husband and I attended and evening of blue grass music and a cooking class featuring fresh herbs from the garden.  We purchased dinner featuring the foods prepared by Chef Greg Reynolds during his cooking demonstration. The menu: Herb Rubbed Grilled Chicken Breast, Dry Monterey Jack Risotto and Heirloom Tomato Chopped Salad with Artichokes and Avocados. Herbs were the star of each dish.

Chef Reynolds prepared an herb oil by first blanching fresh herbs-Italian parsley, chives, basil and Greek oregano- in boiling water about 1 minute to set the colors. After cooling in an ice bath, he gently squeezed out moisture and added the herbs to olive oil. After a brief "chop" in an electric blender, he has a fragrant and flavorful oil in a brilliant greeen.

After the class and dinner we sat under the stars and clapped along to lively blue grass music.