Monday, November 23, 2009

Don't Rock the (Gravy) Boat

In recent weeks, the gluten-free world has again been abuzz with the news that a mainstream company has reformulated one of its products to be GF. This time, the company is Butterball, and the news comes out just in time for Thanksgiving. Butterball is converting all of its gravy concentrate packets to be gluten-free. Hooray! (Or so people thought...)

Alas, there's a catch (isn't there always one?). There's also, it turns out, a bit of irony. For the time being, the GF gravy concentrate (made with rice starch instead of wheat starch) is available only on select specialty turkey products. It doesn't, for example, come with Butterball's frozen whole turkeys, which seems like the most obvious pairing. It does, however, come with the pre-stuffed turkey, which is NOT gluten-free. And therein lies the sad irony. Further, even for those turkey products that are featuring the GF gravy, old gravy packets may still be in circulation, so you should still check ingredients labels carefully.

Kelli and I did our Thanksgiving shopping yesterday, and taking a quick peek at the gravy packets attached to many brands of turkey, it still remains true that the vast majority are not gluten-free. But take a step back with me for a second and look at the big picture. Why do we care? Even before I was gluten-free, Kelli and I discarded those gravy concentrate packets in favor of making our own gravy from scratch. You don't have to be reliant on some packet of just-add-water-and-boil gravy powder to have an easily GF Thanksgiving.

Here's the thing: making gravy from scratch is delicious AND easy! Your primary ingredient is the pan drippings from the roasted turkey. And if you're going through the trouble of roasting a beautiful bird, why would you let those pan drippings go to waste in favor of some processed packet of powder meant to simulate what you've already got sitting in the bottom of your roasting pan already?

All you need are the pan drippings, a thickener, water, salt and pepper. That's it. Some people like to transfer the pan drippings to a small pot and skim off some of the fat. We usually just move the roasting pan to our stovetop burners and make the gravy there (one less pot to wash after the holiday) before transferring it to a gravy boat.

In our cookbook, we use our Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend as the thickener. Another popular option is to use cornstarch. If you have a corn allergy, you can also use potato flour or arrowroot flour as a thickener. If using our flour blend or cornstarch, dissolve 2 tablespoons into 1/3 cups cold water. (If using potato or arrowroot flour, use slightly less per 1/3 cup water.) Add the floured water to the drippings and heat until thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Note that there is some wiggle room in this recipe. If you have lots of pan drippings, you can scale up the water according to the ratio. Likewise, if you want more gravy with weaker flavor, use more water. If you want thicker gravy with stronger flavor, use less water. That partly comes down to preference, and how much pan drippings you're working with. But the fundamental formula remains unchanged, and can be applied nomatter what.

While some people are giving thanks for Butterball's gluten-free gravy packets, I'm personally giving thanks that I've never been reliant on those gravy packets in the first place. You don't have to be, either. This Thanksgiving, enjoy an easily gluten-free meal...complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, AND a gravy you've made yourself from scratch.

- Pete


Stephanie said...

That is kinda funny, kinda sad about the butterball gravy. I haven't had packet gravy since I was a kid. When I went GF, I was terrified, as I was newly married, and had never even made my own gravy...let alone gluten free gravy! I was watching the Rachael Ray show one day, and she was showing how simple it was to make gravy. I was hooked! It really is easy. Before I quit eating dairy, I even came up with some great cheese sauces/gravies. I usually use cornstarch in my gravy. I also like to freeze any extra drippings I have, so I can make gravy anytime.

peterbronski said...

Hey Stephanie... Amen to your comment! Cornstarch is great for gravy. I use it all the time to thicken sauces, from pizza sauce to stir fry sauces. It continues to amaze me how a little cornstarch goes a long way as a thickener!

Cheers, Pete

Linda said...

Dear Peter,
I bought your Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking for my Kindle and am looking forward to baking from it. However, the mantra for gravy is "stock, broth or wine; water only "in articulo mortis."" I use Pacific broths. Half chicken and half beef seems to work nicely for pork roast gravy. At least with cornstarch you don't have to cook the thickener in the drippings to get rid of the taste of raw flour.

peterbronski said...

Hi Linda... Thanks for sharing your perspective on gravy! With the right drippings, we find that water yields a beautifully rich gravy, but I can appreciate using stock or wine as well. =)

Cheers, Pete