For what is pan gravy but hot bubblin’ cow fat anyway?
Disclosure: As great of a cook as I claim to be–and if you know me at all, you know that I brag about my culinary skills ad nauseam—I’ve never made gravy. Any kind of gravy.
Yesterday, whilst keeping company with a dear friend who is infirmed while I was at Becky’s stepping and fetching for her after her knee replacement surgery, the two of us watched “Trisha’s Southern Style Cooking Show Replacing Paula Deen’s Original Southern Style Cooking Show Because a Long Time Ago Paula Said a Bad Word”. Trisha and her sister, who didn’t have her knee replaced, cooked a roast for Trisha’s pastor.
Here’s what she did: Trisha and Sista placed the five pound roast in a cozy little aluminum foil bed, folding up the sides like a little pan in order to hold the two cups of vinegar they poured around the meat blob then topped the roast with salt, pepper, and red onions. They then placed the little guy inside of a baking dish, then together, because two people, apparently, are required to pull off this feat, poured water in the bottom of the baking dish, which surrounded the aluminum foil blanket of beef, and popped that bad boy in the oven for four hours at 450 degrees.
At that point, Becky nearly rendered her flesh because, and I quote, “You never, ever, cook a roast at that high of a temperature!” The aforementioned exclamation was stated in a rather high-pitched, panicked manner reminiscent of someone who just learned that the doctor replaced the wrong knee.
Once the roast was finished roasting, Trisha and company made gravy. I don’t remember how they made it because I was too busy making fun of Becky for not polishing her toenails pre-surgery.
Needless to say, Trisha’s roast turned out perfectly—pink in the middle, just the way Pastor Bill likes it. They had a lovely dinner, Pastor Bill sung Trisha’s praises while his wife wondered if it was the roast or something else that had him at ‘hello’, and then Trisha sang at the dinner table, which was never allowed in the Abercrombie household, but maybe people do things differently in Trisha’s world. Her preparations inspired me, however, and on the way home from Becky’s, I stopped at Kroger and bought a three and a half pound chuck roast.
Roast for Sunday dinner—what could be more perfect? Excited, I prepared the roast the same way Trisha did yesterday, and then I got the bright idea that maybe Tim and the boy would like some gravy to go with the mashed potatoes that I was planning on assembling.
Another disclosure: I only make dirty mashed potatoes, because I can’t abide peeling potatoes.
Since I was not paying attention when Trish and Sis were making the gravy, I did what all good cooks do—I Googled “making gravy AND beef”. My Boolean search resulted in quite a few hits, but since I figured I could skim the text and figure out the rest (because of my culinary prowess), I did.
I knew enough to reserve the “drippings”—a fancy term for animal fat—and made a roux (see, I do know what I’m doing), then began the process of adding the “broth” to the roux.
At one point in my extensive gravy-making internet research, I noticed that one contributing chef—okay, it was “Carol” from Effingham, Illinois—added coffee to her gravy, making it darker and richer. As the roux began bubbling, I fetched the Folgers from the cupboard and tossed in an eighth of a cup or so.
And this is where, if Becky had been present, she would have reacted much the same as she did yesterday when Trisha jacked up the meat heat. She can’t stand my careless, devil-may-care approach to freestyle cooking.
Uh-oh. I soon realized that “Carol” from Effingham must have meant (and probably had written out explicitly) that she added either brewed or instant coffee to her gravy—hell, as much coffee as I drink, I should know that Folgers doesn’t dissolve, not even in animal fat. What’s an experienced chef to do? I thought for a moment. Maybe if I strain it…but then I remembered that the dog chewed up the only sieve that I owned—the same sieve, incidentally, that I often used to fish out the Betta we once had swimming around in a glass vase surrounded by a pothos plant when, on the odd occasion, I would clean the little fishy’s vase-bowl. So without a proper straining device, I tried using paper towels and coffee filters (ha!), all to no avail.
Then I decided that I may as well taste my debut gravy—it might just be that the coffee would give it that added flavor, you know, the flavor that sets it apart from all other gravies with the additional benefit of disguising itself as pepper. The kind of flavor that would inspire future dinner guests to beg me for “that recipe for your delicious gravy!” So I dipped my little finger in the fat-flour-broth-coffee mess and tasted it.
I don’t want to spoil anyone’s future desire for gravy by describing for you the taste of this brew; suffice it to say it was inedible. It tasted, not of coffee, but of vinegar—the two cups of vinegar that Trish and Sis poured all over the roast yesterday. Pastor Bill is a liar.
So there you have it—my failed attempt at gravy making, a basic skill most women of my age should be able to perform in their sleep with both hands tied behind their backs. But it’s probably better that I didn’t infuse my family with any more animal fat than necessary, right?
Know that at this point, my mother-in-law Beverly is shaking her head, and my sister Becky is trying very hard not to pee in her pants laughing.