As I’ve said before, roast chicken is my favourite roast dinner, but this isn’t really about the chicken. Today, I want to talk about gravy.
To get good gravy you need to get flavour into the roasting dish and you need a dish that will go on the hob.
The best way is to put the meat or bird onto a bed of chopped vegetables and herbs and, as the meat roasts, the juices and fats will help caramelise the veggies. This caramelisation will give flavour, and also colour to your gravy.
You can vary the vegetables but I think that the essentials are carrots, leeks and onions. For herbs, I think that thyme and parsley stalks are the best, but bay leaves are also useful. You need the woody-stemmed herbs really, because they will have most flavour. You also need to season with salt and pepper.
You don’t need to peel the vegetables and you can use the green parts of the leeks too. You want all the parts with flavour. You won’t eat the vegetables, they will get thrown away.
So, once your roast is resting, you need to put the dish on the hob and add some liquid and keep stirring. You can use water alone, but some added booze is better. Red or white wine are fine, but something fortified like port, sherry or Madeira is even better. A dry vermouth is also good. For a gravy to have with roast pork, try some cider, it works brilliantly. You can even use beer.
Anyway, you need to heat up the liquid, stirring all the while to melt the sticky bits in the dish and get all the flavour from the vegetables and herbs. You will also need to skim off the surplus fat from the dish, to avoid having an oily gravy.
You need a fine mesh sieve and a saucepan. Strain the liquid from the dish, pushing the veg with a spoon to extract as much flavour as possible.
Then, heat the stock, because that is what it is, and reduce it a bit. Taste it and adjust the seasoning, if necessary and thicken it with beurre manié or a thin cornflour or potato flour paste. I like a fairly thin gravy, but you can thicken it as much as you want.
You can whisk in some redcurrant jelly if you like, this is nice with roast lamb, or leave it plain.
That is it, really. It sounds like a lot of work, but it isn’t really and it is loads nicer than granules.
A hint: if you like a darker gravy, you can get this by adding in a couple of drops of dark soy sauce, but be careful. Too much and your gravy will be dark brown. It is also worth checking how salty your gravy is before doing this too.