Tuesday, May 12, 2009

They Call Me "Mister Gravy"

I have this certain reputation in my extended family, and if I do say so it’s well deserved. I love to make gravy. Turkey gravy, beef gravy, sausage gravy, pork chop gravy, red-eye gravy, chicken-fried anything gravy. I love ‘em all.

I can take the drippings of just about anything, make a roux and create a creamy, tasty gravy just right for mashed potatoes or, even better, just plain old “gravy soppin’”. So, that’s why they call me Mr. Gravy. OK, actually I got that sobriquet by loudly proclaiming over and over “they call me Mr. Gravy” one Sunday afternoon and insisting that everyone call me that and it stuck.

I’ve made some memorable gravies in my day. My sausage gravy is so tasty that the South just oozes out of it. The difference of course is pan drippings. Restaurants just aren’t able to put the pan drippings with the bits of hard cooked sausage still in it in their gravy. But that’s the secret. You can’t just make a white sauce. It’s got to be pan drippings. And roux.

I’m just as well known for spectacular failures though. I’m thinking about Christmas a couple of years ago. My brother-in-law was doing a full dinner—turkey with all the fixings. When we got over to my mother-in-law’s house, Dan had every pot and pan dirty and lying out plus a turkey which had been in the oven for an hour and a half and it looked like it was poached.

I was desperately trying to keep my big mouth shut and my hands out of the kitchen in order to avoid my wife’s wrath for interfering. Dan finally asked us for a bit of help to finish getting things ready. Carolyn started to do some clean-up so we could work. The turkey was finally browning; potatoes coming to a boil. It’s time for Mr. Gravy to get started.

Lots of drippings. No space on the stove to start a roux. Damn. I’ll do it with a slurry. So I strained drippings into a pan and started it heating. I mixed a flour and water slurry, hoping that I could avoid lumps. The drippings were hot, the slurry went in. Instant lumps. So I grabbed a rubber spatula and started stirring. And stirring. And stirring.

The gravy was smoothing out but I kept getting white swirls in it. I kept stirring and then pulled the spatula out to take a sample taste. The spatula looked weird. It turns out that the white swirls in the gravy were from the spatula which was melting into the gravy. I grabbed a spoon and dipped some of the swirly stuff out and then did a taste test. By now Dan and Carolyn were laughing at Mr. Gravy. But what the hell. It looked good. It tasted good. Even though about an inch worth of spatula was now mixed into the gravy. So we used it anyway.

And I suppose that’s why when they call me Mr. Gravy it’s not with the awesome respect that my gravy making prowess should command but rather with just a note of familial derision. Until the next time they’re hungry for sausage gravy and biscuits that is.

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