Sergeant Drayton Didn’t Like Short-Cuts
Sergeant Drayton did not believe in short cuts. He insisted that food was prepared correctly.
The first time I made gravy he said he wanted me to see him first with the recipe book. The Army recipe for gravy was simple. Meat stock, add a mixture of water and flour that was about the consistency of pancake batter, cook until it thickens and add seasoning.
He said with gravy, stews, sauces, and soups that have to be thickened always, always start with a roux. To drive the point home, we made two gravies. He made one following the Army recipe and I made the other making it with a roux.
I melted five pounds of butter and added flour until there was a thick paste. Sergeant Drayton told me to continue to cook the butter and flour until it was the color of dark brown sugar or a shade deeper, but be careful not to burn it.
When it was a deep brown I added it to my meat stock rendered from roast beef. He added his mixture of flour and water to his meat stock. We brought it to a simmer as it thickened. We seasoned it.
Armies Make War Not Gravy
Sergeant Drayton asked me to look at the two and tell him which one looks better. His looked beige. Mine was a deep brown. “Mine looks better,” I said. He scowled.
“Taste,” he ordered. I tasted. “Which taste best?” “Mine,” I said. Again he said louder, “Which taste best?” I was a bit intimidated, but I wasn’t about to deny the obvious. I said, “Mine.” He smiled broadly and said, “And don’t you ever forget it. That’s the way you make gravy. The Army knows how to win wars not make gravy.”
From that day I always used a roux for preparing white sauces, cheese sauces, and so on. Of course it is not necessary to brown the roux as in the case of the brown gravy. It is best to cook the roux until it bubbles for a few minutes, but remember to keep an eye on it and stir often so it doesn’t burn.
Avoid Making Red-Eye Gravy
A few years ago I was cooking with a chef from a hotel. He was making the gravy. About a half hour from serving time I noticed a panicked look on his face. He was adding ketchup to the gravy. I asked him why. He said the kitchen ran out of Kitchen Bouquet and he was trying to darken the gravy by adding ketchup. (Some times this is can be effective with some items, but not trying to go from white to brown.) We ended up calling the gravy “red-eye,” but it was really pink. We couldn’t call it “pink-eye” for obvious reasons.
The next day I showed him how to make a roux instead of relying on Kitchen Bouquet or a gallon of ketchup.
Most generally I use butter, but any fat or oil can be used.
A good consistency can be obtained by equals amounts of butter or fat to the of flour (2 ounces of butter, two ounces of flour). When you cook the mixture the smell is important. Cook until it looses the raw flour smell or if desired until it becomes the color of brown you want. Remember, it is very likely that when the roux is added to the stock or whatever you are thickening it will become lighter.
A good way to keep gravy from lumping is to lower the heat on the roux and add stock slowly stirring vigorously untill you reach the consistency or thickness desired.
2 ounces of flour
2 ounces of melted butter, fat or oil
Mix well and cook until the smell of raw flour is gone or the color you want.