Good Gravy

Okay, this is part story about cooking for our family here in San Pedro and part how to make gravy.

Long ago before I met Paula, I learned how to cook a turkey. In 1973, I was working for Raytheon in Houston Texas as a sort of high-tech gypsy installing systems for the FAA. I was away from home for the first time and my room-mate and I thought we ought to have a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. So I called home and asked Mom how it was done. So from that day forward, I made the Turkey.

So many years later, our family had flown out to San Pedro for Thanksgiving one year. We were there a few days before Turkey day, and we were discussing what to do for Thanksgiving. Mary was all for making reservations. Paula and I told her that wasn’t going to happen. We said we don’t do Thanksgiving in a restaurant. We offered to do the cooking. And so it began.

Our first challenge was to find a liquor store that sold Beaujolais Nouveau. Beaujolais Nouveau hits the market every year in November. But most of the grocery store hadn’t a clue what we were talking about. Eventually we found a few bottles. Now we were ready to get properly medicated for the event.

The next challenge was to clear off the dining room table. Over the previous few months, mail had accumulated to the point of becoming a huge pile. Harold and Mary weren’t accustomed to having a large group for dinner. So we started on the table.

I don’t think that Mary had been doing much cooking in that kitchen. We discovered on Thursday morning that the kitchen sink was clogged. Just imagine for a minute how hard it might be to find a plumber on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Can’t be done. We eventually got the sink unclogged with a plunger and the meal went off without any further hitches.

Paula and I tend to cook together often. Sometimes, I do all the cooking. Usually she has me do the oven roasts (beef, turkey, lamb, etc.) One time, just after we had arrived here two years ago, Mary complemented Paula on a fine meal. Paula says, ahem, Joe cooked that. Oops. She now pays more attention to who is doing the cooking. So last night, she complemented me on the Shepherd’s Pie. She cleaned her plate and had more today reheated for lunch. There is no better complement than to see someone licking the plate after the meal.

Now on to the gravy. Last night I was working on my version of Shepherd’s Pie. I started with three different recipes and kept the parts of each recipe that I liked. One recipe called for brown gravy. Browned the ground beef and time to make gravy.

For Shepherd’s Pie you need about a cup of gravy. Start with two Tablespoons of unsalted butter. Not margarine, BUTTER. The real thing. Never mind the cardiologist who going into fits.

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over low heat. When the butter is completely melted, slowly stir in 2 tablespoons of flour with a whisk, stirring constantly. At this point you should have a nice smooth concoction. Measure out about 1 cup of beef broth. (If you are making chicken gravy, use chicken broth). Add about 2/3 cup into the mixture, continue stirring. As it thickens you will likely need to add more liquid to get the right consistency thickness. One can always make thick gravy thinner. Making thin gravy thicker is a bit of a problem.

Need more gravy? Just start with proportionally more butter, flour, and liquid. Process is the same. Add whatever flavoring suits you. For the Shepherd’s pie, I added a couple of tbsp’s worcestershire sauce, and a couple of tbsp’s of ketchup. Sometimes, I use gravy master. Adds flavor and makes the gravy a bit browner.

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