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Saturday, April 23, 2011

It's All About the Gravy!

There will be a couple of gratuitous photos of chicken in this post, but that's only because it's hard to write about gravy without mentioning/showing/bragging about the accompaniments.

You'd think that the main dish (a.k.a. roasted chicken) would be the star of the show, but some members of my family (including me) would disagree.  If you're making gravy with the pan drippings, it's all about the gravy!

Once upon a time, I used to buy and serve gravy from a can.  I'm not even going to mention the brand that I used, at the time I thought it was good, but if I were to serve it now that my family is used to my homemade gravy, they'd probably gag.  On second thought, that could be fun to see.  Maybe I'll do that sometime as a joke.

I serve roasted chicken quite a bit in the colder months, probably 2 or 3 times a month.  It's a family favorite, very easy to do, and the typical sides I serve (canned cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and a green vegetable) take minimal effort.

Preparing the gravy probably takes 10 minutes, it's not difficult, trust me.  When the chicken is removed from the oven you need to let it rest.........that gives you plenty of time to putter around, putting the finishing touches on your sides and making gravy!

I'm going to give you very simple instructions for the chicken as well, but if you have your own preference for roasting, disregard my ramblings and focus on the gravy recipe!



Roasted Chicken with Pan Gravy
  • 1 (6 to 8 lb) Roasting Chicken
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup flour
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Rinse the chicken, inside and out, with cold water.  Pat dry with paper towels.

Place your chicken on a roasting rack in a large roasting pan.  I put about 2 cups of water in the bottom of the pan.  It will evaporate as the chicken cooks, but the steam will help to keep the chicken moist. 

 That's what I tell myself.

Brush the melted butter over the chicken.

Sprinkle the poultry seasoning onto the chicken.
This is my favorite poultry seasoning.  I like McCormick's poultry seasoning, too.  I used to always buy McCormick's, until I saw this brand at Williams Sonoma and as luck would have it, I needed poultry seasoning that day. 

Well, not really that day, but I knew I had used up my supply at home so I thought I would give Olde Thompson brand a try.........and I was hooked.

I'm trying to keep the roasting instructions as simple as possible for  you, but if you want to throw some garlic cloves and a lemon (either cut it in half or poke lots of holes in it) inside the chicken cavity, and some sliced onions in the bottom of the roasting pan, go ahead.  If you do put lemons, garlic or anything else into the cavity, cross the legs and tie them with twine.  I don't know why.  I think it's to concentrate the flavors and hold the heat inside.

I'm lazy.  I never tie my bird. 

If you don't do the extra additions of lemon/garlic/onions, don't worry, I promise you that just the sprinkling of poultry seasoning will do.
 See?

Looks pretty good, doesn't it?

This chicken happens to have the "pop-up" button (you can see it in the upper right) that pops up to let you know the chicken is done.  I don't totally trust it (there have been times in the past when the button popped early, or didn't pop at all!), but I do use it as a guide.  For a 6 to 8 pound chicken, it is going to take 15 to 20 minutes per pound to completely cook.  That means at least 2 hours, probably closer to 2 1/2.  The button popped at the 2:25 point, which was within the range I was expecting, so I trusted it was right.  The only other thing I did was baste the chicken with the pan juices; after an hour, and then every half hour after that.

Remove the chicken from the pan, to a cutting board.  Let it rest for 10 minutes before you carve it.  Why does it need to rest, you ask?  Because when it cooks, the juices leave the meat and work their way to the surface.  Resting gives the juices a chance to redistribute and your meat will be moist.  Carving the chicken too soon will allow the juices to run out and hence, your chicken will be dry.

While your chicken rests, make the gravy.  It only takes about 10 minutes, which is the perfect amount of rest for your chicken.
This is what is left in the pan, what you will use to make your spectacular gravy.  It looks like a hard, crusty mess in the bottom of the pan, but we will work with it to bring it back to it's flavorful glory.
Add 1 cup of chicken broth into the pan. 

You may have noticed-- I use a lot of chicken broth in my cooking.  I like the quart containers with the reclosable tops.  I can't tell you how many cases of the stuff I go through. 
Place your roasting pan directly onto one of the burners of your stove top.  Over medium heat, stir the broth around until the crusty bits on the bottom of the pan start to dissolve and loosen.  This really only takes about a minute.
Pour the juices out.  I use a gravy separator.  I probably should have taken a better picture, so that you could see the strainer on the top of the glass.  The strainer catches all the lumpy parts, so that only the liquid remains.  If you don't have a gravy separator, any glass (or see-through plastic) bowl or pitcher will do.

You need to see where the (good) juices separate from the (bad) grease, which has floated to the top.  In the above picture you can see that there is a little bit more than 1 cup of the good stuff.  Which makes sense, as we just poured 1 cup of broth into the pan.

You need to remove the grease.  The gravy separator makes this easy....I pour out and get rid of that tiny bit of grease that you see in the spout, then all the good stuff comes out next (I pour it directly into a saucepan).  After the good stuff pours out, only the grease is left.  Stop pouring, throw the bad stuff away!

If you do not have a gravy separator, you can skim the grease off using a spoon, a turkey baster or a large syringe.  When you have just about removed it all, you can quickly swirl an ice cube around on the top and the grease will solidify and cling to the ice cube.

I recommend using a gravy separator.  Much easier.
Add 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth to the good pan juices in the saucepan.
Stir the 1/2 cup of flour into the remaining 1/2 cup of chicken broth.
I pour the flour/broth through a small strainer and into the saucepan.
 This will catch any lumps.  I don't like lumpy gravy.  (I have also made this gravy using gluten-free flour.  If you are using gluten-free flour, which is quite starchy, you should decrease the amount of flour to 1/4 cup.)
Stir the flour/broth mixture into the pan juices.  Now turn the heat to medium.  (Turning the heat on before you add the flour mixture creates lumps when the cool flour hits the heated liquid.  Stirring the mixture well before starting to heat it keeps it smooth.)
Bring just to a boil, stirring constantly.  Once it starts to boil, the gravy will thicken.  If by some chance it gets too thick, you can easily thin it to desired consistency by stirring in additional chicken broth.

Turn the heat down to low, stirring occasionally.  Carve your chicken, put the finishing touches on your sides (in this case all I did was mash the potatoes I had boiled, open a can of cranberry sauce and heat some asparagus for 2 1/2 minutes in the microwave), the gravy will patiently wait while you finish your other preparations.
Oh, yum.  Notice how I totally drowned the food on this plate with the gravy.  I promise you there will be none left.   It's that good.
Season with salt and pepper.  Enjoy!!

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