Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's time for baking Christmas Cookies!

Christmas is the best time of year. It is my excuse to over bake and to try lots of new cookie recipes. Working in a warm kitchen, the scents of cinnamon, chocolate and cookies baking, family home, Christmas music playing in the background, and lights sparkling on the tree. Sing along with me... these are a few of my favorite things.

Over the next few weeks I will share some of my favorite old family recipes and test some of the best new recipes I have found out on the web. I can hardly wait to share them!

The Secret to Easy and Non-Lumpy Gravy!

For smooth great tasting gravey try using a roux to thicken it. The old standby water and flour mixture to thicken your Gravy often left me with a lumpy floury tasting goo. Now that I have tried using a roux as the thickener, I get perfect gravy every time. Here is how to do it.

A roux is a mixture of equal parts of fat (butter, oil or meat rendering) and flour that you cook for two to four minutes over medium heat to remove the raw flavor of the flour and which thickens into the gravy when you add the liquid and heat. It is hard to make a lumpy gravy with a roux base.

To make a roux gravy, the basic formula is 1 tablespoons fat, 1 tablespoons flour, to 1 cup of liquid. For thicker gravy you can use 2 TBS flour- 2 Tbs fat and 1 1/2 cups of liquid. After cooking the meat or poultry remove the meat from the pan. Next you will need to ,find the amount of "juice" remaining in the pan drippings. I pour all the drippings into a glass measuring cup to see how much liquid there is and how much fat there is. Let it sit for a minute so that the fat rises to the top. Pour the fat off into another measuring cup and save to make your roux. If there is not enough liquid to make the amount of gravy you need then you can do one of two things. One add some boiling water to the bottom of the roasting pan and stir it around scraping all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan and use this liquid to add to the other juice from the meat or two- you can use canned broth. The amount of liquid you have will be the final amount of gravy so if you want one cup of gravy you will need one cup of liquid.

Now that you have the final amount of liquid you will know how much flour and fat you need. need to adjust the fat or oil amount up or down to suit your needs according to the basic formula. Lets say you have 2 cups of liquid. I would use 2 Tbs fat and 2 Tbs of white flour. Place the fat and the flour in a saucepan over medium heat. If you do not have enough fat from the meat then add butter to make the 2Tbs
Stir constantly over medium heat for 2 to 4 minutes until the flour just starts to get a slight golden color to it. This is a roux. I like using a whisk. Now add your liquid. Start by adding 1 3/4 cups into your roux. Stir constantly and kind of fast. If you don't stir you will get lumps. The mixture will start to thicken almost immediately. Continue to stir until the mixture comes to a simmer and bubbles. The gravy will thicken as it cooks and will also thicken more as it cools so resist the urge to add more flour. If it needs thinning you can add the rest of the broth.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, nothing is worse than under seasoned gravy, taste and serve.

You can also use a butter and flour roux with milk or cream as your liquid to make a white sauce- bechamel sauce and use it for pot pie or with sausage over biscuits.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

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