I am a recent convert to gravy as a food worth eating. When I was young, the only gravy I knew was tasteless stuff designed to cover and not enhance the food with which it was served. (I’m not dissing my mother here, as she never served it – homemade or ready-made.) But it turns out that gravy can actually taste good, with flavor that complements red meat, chicken, or potatoes.
My first forays into homemade gravy were complicated recipes, served with turkey at Thanksgiving. Although those versions are delicious, I could not imagine whipping up a batch for a “normal” dinner. I didn’t think much about making simple gravy until one recent evening when I cooked onions and mushrooms as a side dish for steak. I pulled out a box of broth, thickened some slightly and I was on my way to a pleasing and easy accompaniment for many dinners since then.
The key to this gravy is slow cooking the onions and using a good quality broth. Although I used beef broth this time, the same basic recipe works for chicken or vegetable broth too. Sure the gravy would be fabulous with a homemade beef, chicken or vegetable broth, but that’s not essential.
If you do use boxed or canned broth, read the label and find one that isn’t too salty. A good test is to open the container of whichever brand you buy, heat up a few spoonfuls and taste it. If the broth is robust and flavorful, you may not want to add herbs. If it is nice but plain, then consider adding a bit of dried herbs. For beef, rosemary works well, for chicken, I like tarragon or thyme, and for vegetable broth, try thyme, basil or marjoram. Of course, you can add a combination of herbs, but keep in mind that the nice part about this gravy is its simplicity.
The best way to make a smooth gravy is with a whisk. If you don’t have one, I’d advise investing in this handy and very inexpensive gadget. However, you can make this with just a wooden spoon, as long as you stir constantly as you add the broth to the flour and butter/oil (fat) mixture.
Servings – about 2 or 2 ½ cups Cost – $4
- 2-3 onions, sliced into thin half moons
- Handful of mushrooms, sliced (optional) – white button or baby portabella
- 1½ – 2 cups broth
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of white all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon sugar (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- Herbs (optional) – ½ – 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary, tarragon, thyme, or basil.
- Cutting board
- Measuring spoon
- Measuring cup for liquids (either microwave safe or else need a small pot)
- Large pan
- Large sauté pan (with steep sides at least 1½ ” tall) and cover
- Wooden spoon
- Slice onions and mushrooms. The thinner the onion half-moons the better: the mushrooms can be a bit more thickly sliced.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the pan. When warmed, add the onion slices. Cook over a medium-low heat, stirring fairly often until the onions begin to get soften.
- Cover the pan and let the onions cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and light brown. If you like the onions to turn a deeper color, then add the ¼ teaspoon of sugar.
- After the onions are cooked, add the mushrooms and cook for about 2-3 minutes longer, until the mushrooms are also soft.
- Remove the cooked onions and mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.
- Heat the broth until hot but not boiling, either in a microwave or in small pot on the stove.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and heat. When warm, add the 2 tablespoons of flour and whisk them together for 2 minutes, stirring constantly so the flour begins to clump and turn a brownish color. You are cooking the flour in fat so there won’t be a raw flour taste in the gravy, creating what the French call a roux or thickener. You can also use this technique for creating thicker soups and even sauces for macaroni and cheese.
- After the flour is cooked, slowly add in the heated broth, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. As the liquid heats and you stir, it will thicken. Continue stirring under medium heat until the gravy is a consistency that you like. It will probably take about 5 minutes.
- Add the onions and mushrooms into the broth, stir until well combined, and taste, adding salt and pepper, along with any dried herbs. If you’re adventurous and want to add condiments, consider Worcestershire sauce, or even a dash of soy sauce.
I serve gravy with sliced steak, roast chicken or turkey, baked or mashed potatoes, and noodles. How do you serve gravy?