"Nations", ya say, "Nations, yer gross. All we ever get outta you is potty legends and exploding road kill...well, dammit, we're sick of it, ya hear? Sick of it!'
Well fine. Don't get all in a bunch for heavens' sake.
Read the entire recipe before you start...remember, I have a strange brain. And in using this recipe, please bear in mind that these are not exact measurements. I repeat: THESE ARE NOT EXACT MEASUREMENTS. It 's more important to use the exact ingredients than it is to measure them with scientific accuracy. Have all your tools accounted for and set out beforehand, including little plates or bowls to hold the 'aside' portions. Ideally ingredients should be at room temperature.
1/2 cup dry, fine, white breadcrumbs. May be sourdough, french, egg, potato or wonder. Not whole wheat EVER. No sweet breads, no highly spiced or herbed breads, no rye, just plain white damn bread.
...brown these in a teflon pan over med-hi heat, turning with a plastic spoon or spatula, until they are a yellow golden brown, set aside on a saucer to cool. Put the teflon pan away because you will not be using it again.
4 cups brown stock, unsalted, to which may be added any drippings and
cast juices from one beef, vennison or pork roast, DEGREASED.
...combine. pour off 1 cup or so of this mixture into a jar with a tightly fitting lid and set aside.
1 heaping teaspoon cornstarch-if it's a rainy day you may add a little more
2 ribs celery, with leaves
1 carrot (or 1/2 if you have big carrots or don't like the sweetness that carrot imparts)
1/2 cup chopped onion, med. dice for purposes of measuring. More or less to taste.
...combine these three items and chop fine in cuisinart, set aside
(optional..crimini mushrooms, coarse dice. These cook down to about one third their initial size and cast a lot of juice in the process which may be poured off into the stock with no effect on its subsequent thickening. To your taste and bite with these.)
plain vegetable oil for sauteeing. not olive oil, not any other type of oil like canola, safflower, corn etc. just plain VEGETABLE OIL. NOT MARGARINE. NOT BUTTER.
plain beer, like Miller. nothing flavored, fancy or extra dark needed here. crack a can and enjoy it while you cook; you'll only be using a two-count pour of it.
white zinfandel or any 'blush' crap wine, for deglazing
1. Take the cooled breadcrumbs, the cornstarch, and the milk and add them to the 1 cup of stock in the jar. Place the lid on and shake until the contents are mixed throughly and there are no big chunks or dry places, and set aside. Return and shake this mixture throughout the rest of the gravy making process so that the contents don't settle to the bottom and turn into a brick. This slurry mixture may be made in the morning and set aside to soak, and be shaken occasionally, until it's time for dinner. The longer the crumbs have to rehydrate and cast their flavor the better .
2. Place the remaining stock and juice combination into a saucepan and heat to low.
3. In a large saute pan, (bare steel or well-seasoned cast iron works well, but not calphalon because it's bullshit and definately NOT teflon because you're trying to develop a fond here) add a little vegetable oil and the chopped vegetables (not the mushrooms, though, if you are using them). DO NOT crowd the pan. Saute and turn. When the vegetables have become golden, add a small amount of the beer(a slosh, in technical terms). It will foam up briefly and then subside. Do not panic. When the contents of the pan have returned to the volume they were before the addition of the beer (in other words, reduced) pour the contents into the warm stock. DO NOT SCRAPE THE PAN.
( optional step-now add the mushrooms and a little more oil. Pour whatever juice they cast into the stock. When the mushrooms are dark and beginning to brown a little, pour into stock. As above, DO NOT SCRAPE THE PAN.)
4. Replace pan on fire. When the bottom begins to sizzle, pour in a little (a slosh) of the wine so that the pan bubbles and foams up. Using a spoon or hard spatula, scrape and stir the bottom of the pan until all the crud on the bottom is lifted and mixed into the wine. Continue to stir. Use your nose, now, and smell the steam. When it no longer has that sharp 'booze' smell, dump the contents into the stock. NOW you scrape the pan.
5. Raise the heat on the stock. When the surface shimmers, shake the contents of the slurry jar and then stir them into the hot stock. An ideal tool for this is a flat bottomed spring style whisk, NOT a balloon whisk. Do not whisk, just stir constantly. Do not flail. Do not panic. The stock will turn murky; this is fine.
Your sauce should begin to 'kick' momentarily. Small dark blobby pieces like clouds will rise to the surface of the stock. Now you should begin to pay careful attention to getting the entire bottom of the pot stirred. Figure eights all over, right down on the bottom of the pan. Now the thickening will commence and you will feel the new resistance increasing as you stir.
During this portion of our show the contents of the pan will begin a small boil. As long as you are attentively stirring the bottom of the pan and you are not meeting any resistance or speed bumps there you are fine. The instant you begin to feel resistance, take the pan off the fire and set it on a cool burner. Continue stirring as before until the bubbles stop rising. (at this point you can go back and forth to the burner if you feel the mixture needs the extra high cooking.) In a few more moments, stop stirring. Take off the fire. Let this sit over the oven vent for the rest of your meals cooking time, and stir it again before you serve it. You may also strain it, or run an immersion blender through it if you like a smooth gravy. NOW taste it for salt and add as needed!
It am good!
Sometimes gravy just flat doesn't gravy; it refuses to thicken. The reasons for this include cursing by Gypsies, so go look it up elsewhere if you're interested. But how do you fix it?
Take the pan filled with the failed gravy off the fire. Fill up the sink with cold water and set the pan in it, as deep as possible with out overflowing, and stir very briskly. Now is a good time to use that balloon whisk. What you're trying to do is to lower the temperature quickly. Stand there and do this for three minutes or even longer, until you can stick your finger in the liquid without getting burned.
Now spoon off about a half-cup of the liquid into the jar, and drizzle in a little cold milk to further reduce the temp to warm, not cold. To this add a teaspoon of cornstarch and a teaspoon of white flour, cap and shake well.
Return the pan to the fire, and this time raise the heat slowly, stirring, until you have a simmer. The top of the fluid should be moving but not bubbling. Get out your trusty spring whisk and pour the shaken contents of the jar slowly into the liquid, stirring steadily.(It helps to count off a waltz time here...one side, then the other, figure eights, 123, 123, 123) That done, reach over and raise the temperature once again to high, continuing to stir as before, making sure you get the bottom of the pan but not whisking or whipping. When the sauce kicks, it will do so quite suddenly. Do not panic, just keep stirring in waltz time, covering the entire bottom of the pan. When you start to feel resistance on the floor of the pan, take it off the fire, do not return it, and keep stirring until the liquid remains at a constant thickness and the increasing has stopped.