Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mushroom Gravy

The expression “It’s just gravy” suggests that gravy is something optional, a gratuitous bonus above and beyond the essentials … the proverbial icing on the cake. Gentle reader, this is not the case in our household, for The Rob regards gravy as effectively being a food group. He considers it as essential an accompaniment to a steak, a pork chop, or a piece of chicken as a green and a carb, and I can’t say I blame him. (Come to think of it, a cake without icing is pretty incomplete as well, but that’s a post for another day.)

These proportions will serve two people with a couple of steaks or chops or a chicken, but can be easily multiplied. I served it with grilled pork chops in a soy/mustard-based marinade; green beans with shallots, bacon, and garlic; and mashed potatoes, which are also, to The Rob, incomplete without gravy.)

  • Melt a couple tablespoons of butter over low heat in a small saucepan.

  • Add a minced shallot or half a minced onion, stir, and sauté on medium-low until the shallot is soft and translucent.

  • Add about 4 oz. mushrooms, sliced. (I like to use cremini mushrooms, sometimes billed as “Baby Bellas,” because they have a lot more flavor than supermarket white mushrooms, for usually about 50¢ more per 8-oz. package.) Sprinkle with kosher or sea salt and stir. Cook, stirring often, till the mushrooms are soft.

  • Gradually sprinkle a couple tablespoons of flour into the pan, mixing it into the sauté with a fork or whisk.

  • Now turn up the heat and gradually add a couple cups of stock, mixing in with a fork or whisk. Beef stock will probably work best for beef or pork, chicken or vegetable stock for poultry. (As always, I recommend using a no-salt or at least low-salt stock if you buy a commercial one, so you can control the amount of salt—or, better yet, use a stock you made yourself.) If you want it to be more like a mushroom sauté than a gravy, add less liquid.

  • Optionally, you can add a dried bay leaf or the leaves from a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme.

  • Let the liquid boil, then turn it down to medium/medium-low and whisk. It should settle into being bubbly but not boiling. Cook for about 10 minutes, whisking occasionally; the liquid should thicken into the consistency of, well, gravy. If it cooks down too much too fast, add more stock or some water. If your meat’s not yet done, you can keep whisking in liquid and cooking it down while you wait for it (or just turn off the burner, and reheat it when the meat is done).

  • After your meat rests, you can pour the juices from the plate where it rested into the gravy. And/or you can finish with a splash of wine or sherry—red wine will work better with beef stock, white with chicken or vegetable stock; sherry will cover all the bases. You could also stir in a splash of heavy cream at this point to turn this into a cream gravy.

    Now, your entrée is truly complete! And everything else is just…well, you know. (See what I did there?)

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