Regionalism and gravy

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Nov 28th, 2001, 04:13 PM
  #21
kate
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I grew up in the Milwaukee area and learned to make gravy from my Mom--German/French. Step 1--brown flour in butter. Step 2--Skim fat from turkey drippings. Dispose of fat and save skimmed drippings. (I soaked my turkey in a brine this year and ended up with about a quart of drippings for an 8 pound bird) Step 3--Save water from boiling the potato's, for mashed potatoes.
Slowly add browned butter/flour to the hot turkey drippings. Stir constantly over medium low heat. Heat will cause gravy to thicken and stirring will prevent lumps. Add as much of the browned flour as needed to thicken drippings. Potato water is then used to extend the amount of gravy and/or change the flavor.
I think this recipe reflects its French heritage because it needs watching every step of the way--but the end product is superior(beautiful color, no lumps, and excellent flavor. German--a thick hearty "stick to the ribs" and clog the arteries kind of gravy. YUMMY!
 
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Nov 28th, 2001, 06:29 PM
  #22
Jeanette
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Many people in the Midwest make great meat gravies but the art is getting rarer and rarer. I make an excellent turkey gravy and it is not colorless and it is very flavorful. I do use the neck, but not the giblets. Great gravies are made with saturated fat. Yes, it is bad for you. So are eggs, goose liver and almost everything else that tastes delicious. Guess what, we are all going to die anyway. My dad's German family ate gravy as if it were a national beverage and they all lived to be in their 90's. I think it is great for a special occasion.

It takes practice and the best gravies have tons of fat, that is where some of the flavor comes from. We never ever use flour to thicken as it changes the flavor. We use cold water/ corn starch mixture (and it is shaken up to totally absorb with no lumps before it is added to carmelized drippings) and very, very slowly reduced at the same time. We also use the potato water and sometimes also the water from the broccoli or spinach. For beef gravy, I sometimes add a little milk too. I had a bunch of students from Univ. of Chicago (they came with my nephew)as almost everything on campus was closed last week on Thanksgiving day. One student from Brazil said my gravy was the best he had had in the USA so far. It just takes lots of time and practice. I have someone else who carves and he was an army cook- so I have lots of help while I'm just doing the gravy and oven rolls. I used to make great beef gravy, but I don't have occasion to make really great/ big roasts any longer, so I'm starting to lose the knack. It takes practice and it helps a lot to watch someone do it who knows what they are doing. It's one of the things our ancestors made from any meat they could get there hands on. If they didn't have quantity, they used meat for gravy and flavor.

One of my earliest adult memories was going to my husband's house as a 20 year old bride and tasting canned gravy and boxed dressing for the first time. To me canned or dry packaged gravy is so bad, that I would rather eat whatever it is without the gravy at all. I really don't think there is a typical gravy in Illinois any more, but our homestyle gravy was almost universal before about 1975 or so- in my
experience. Lots of restaurants use flour now or packaged dry mixes, so I rarely order anything with thickened gravy.

Out in the countryside of Indiana and Michigan there are lots of folks who can make great biscuits and gravy. Best half/serving I ever had was in a real shack in Koontz Lake, Ind. It would probably make your cholesterol go up 50 points for a week or two. I can't afford it, but for some reason it makes me feel good watching some of the stick thin locals dishing down huge platters of it there. Reminds me of times when food was relished and not analyzed.
 
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Nov 28th, 2001, 06:47 PM
  #23
grammy
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Jeanette, that is so true-I remember the time when food was not analyzed..I still remember not thinking of calories,hidden nitrates,carbs,whatevers in my food.I was just happy it tasted good! My mom was a lousy cook, but fortunately I had a Southern grandmother who made everything from scratch and it was all good...Now I am the grandmother and must keep up the tradition of making yummy food for all the kiddies...gravies included..
 
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Nov 28th, 2001, 07:48 PM
  #24
John G
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Yes, my Italian aunt and my best friend from Pittson, PA have always refered to spaghetti sauce as gravy. What most people think of as gravy, they call "brown gravy," but I have never ever seen it served in their homes. My own mother never made gravy for us when we where growing up--she said it would clog our arteries and we would be dead of a heart attack at 40.
 
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Nov 29th, 2001, 03:13 AM
  #25
Linda
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Jeanette talking about midwestern biscuits-n-gravy (yes, Jeanette, plenty of meat fat, maybe some butter to bring the fat content up to par, always cornstarch for a meat/potato gravy and always flour for white gravy over biscuits) brings a smile to my face remembering a trip I took out west 3 years ago. In Kansas (also OK and MO) we take our biscuits-n-gravy for granted - every restaurant that serves breakfast is going to have it on the menu, and it's a good "barometer" of how good the rest of the food will be. Any home cook worth his/her salt knows how to make a good (if not great) batch of biscuits-n-gravy. Well, I ordered it in Oregon: terrible. I ordered it in California: terrible. I ordered it in Utah: terrible. I tried Mom-n-Pop places, I tried truck stops. I couldn't even identify exactly how they were so spectacularly ruining such a simple dish, other than some of them seemed to HAVE HERBS AND SPICES in them! (shudder). It became comical, my trying to find a western eatery that could make proper biscuits-n-gravy. It taught me not to take our midwestern style of home-cooking for granted any more - it ain't gourmet, it ain't healthy, but it sure is good.....
 
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Nov 29th, 2001, 05:15 AM
  #26
American Woman
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I like my gravy medium-to-thick, beef flavored (brown) and served really hot.

It is an art that I've never been able to master. Have found a passable solution, though. Sam's Club sells a brown gravy mix that actually tastes really good. Grind some black pepper into it and it's respectible.
 
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Nov 29th, 2001, 08:13 AM
  #27
curious
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I have the best and easiest recipe for gravy. Here it goes, take one martini glass, fill 3/4 with Bombay, open vermouth and waft the fumes over glass. Take a second wine goblet, fill 1/2 with a nice merlot. Present appropriate glasses to my 2 brothers-in-law, along with a dish of Asiago and Kalamata olives. Tell them how much you loved the gravy they made last year and how you wish you could make gravy as good as theirs, then sit back and watch them go to it. I know it involves pan drippings, chopped turkey liver, fresh stock, flour and a bit of red wine. It's fantastic and so easy!

Also, my husband's family is from Northern Italy and would NEVER refer to pasta sauce as "gravy". They claim that it is a Southern Italian thing.
 
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Nov 29th, 2001, 08:17 AM
  #28
reallycurious
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Very good recipe Curious! how do I get the brothers to my house though?
 
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Nov 29th, 2001, 08:32 AM
  #29
curious
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That's easy, do you have any Bombay and good wine? One is an eligable bachelor, so if you have a prospective date for him, that would help!
 
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Nov 29th, 2001, 08:57 AM
  #30
reallycurious
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Thank you very much, I am also unattached, maybe this will be the start of something more than gravy or as they say in the NE-"the rest is gravy"
 
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Nov 29th, 2001, 09:57 AM
  #31
S
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The regionalism and gravy doesn't surprise me. What flabbergasts me is that (some) italians call spaghetti sauce gravy! How fascinating!
 
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Nov 29th, 2001, 10:09 AM
  #32
x
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So what's the story with this spag sauce/gravy business? Is it, as curious says, a southern Italian thing or do northern Italians do it as well. Or is it just an U.S. east coast thing that spread to other parts of the country? Do they call it gravy because they consider it gravy or because someone had poor command of the English language and it spread?

 
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Nov 29th, 2001, 10:10 AM
  #33
julia
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The reason people of northern Italian heritage don't use the term "gravy" is because they, historically, don't make what Americans call "spaghetti sauce." That's a southern Italian invention. Northerners normally don't put a heavy tomato sauce on their pasta. They prefer something lighter, or a cream sauce. So, of course, they don't say "gravy" -- they don't eat it or make it, either.
 
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Nov 29th, 2001, 10:15 AM
  #34
curious
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Sorry Julia, but you are wrong on that one. We visit friends and relatives in Biella, near the Lakes region in Italy (very far north near the Swiss border), and I have never had a meal at one of their homes that did not include a pasta course with tomato sauce.
 
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Nov 29th, 2001, 10:30 AM
  #35
MmmMmmGood
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God, I'm STARVING - I either want mashed potatoes and gravy (my husband makes the BEST) or pasta with marinara.....
 
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Nov 29th, 2001, 10:59 AM
  #36
lisa
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My husband (whose family is also Northern Italian) would NEVER refer to tomato sauce as "gravy." In fact, he is appalled whenever he hears that. He claims it's a Sicilian thing (and don't even get me started about how the Northern Italians feel about the Sicilans . . .)
 
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Nov 29th, 2001, 12:13 PM
  #37
Jeanette
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Guess what, Northern Italy today is taking LOTS of pages out of the Southern Italian cookbook AND they are going to make a rissoto in Naples and Palmero, on occasion. Many of the regional specialities have started to spread way beyond their original areas. My grandmother and grandfather who came from Palermo- when asked in Chicago what their home town was always said,"South of Rome." There is a huge prejudice against Southern Italians and Sicilians in Northern Italy and in areas where Northern Italians have settled most in the U.S. In Chicago today there are tons of descendants of the areas near Bari and Naples who make a great number of sauces, and some do call it gravy. My in-laws were Calabrese and Naples area- and called it sauce. My mother's family was entirely Sicilian and called it Zoogu, not gravy. (Can't spell this but two syllables and a short u sound.) They also pronnounced all their p's like b's and so it was basta to me. And as their c's were like g's, if you didn't listen you got it in the gulo. As far as not having any class, some of the classiest people I have ever met have been Sicilian. Grace under tremendous pressure, and very, very poor.

Yes, Linda, as I travel more and more now that all my children are adults, I am amazed at what I have seen come out of kitchens called "biscuits and gravy." One time in Arizona I saw them add GREEN CHILIES and use something like a smoked sausage which defeated the entire basic white gravy base.

Food is life. Families meld around the table. I am trying very hard regardless of job, illness whatever- to teach my grandchildren and their peers how to make good food from scratch ingredients. If you skip the fast food, you can take a gravy or two in moderation anyday and remain healthy. Especially now that we have Kitchen-aids to grate etc.- I can make fresh potato pancakes with the grandkids for lunch in about 20minutes with a Kitchen-aid. One, who is seven, asks for a lemon with salt, and my wine vinegar/olive oil salad for lunch as soon as she comes thru the door now. No lunchables for any of us. If you are worried about clogged arteries, skip the lunch meat and eggs way before you eliminate a moderate gravy or wine/gravy sauce like in masala dishes.
 
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Nov 29th, 2001, 12:21 PM
  #38
cook
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The French must be rolling on the floor laughing at our discussions on gravy...I had a boyfriend,southern Italy/Brooklyn, he called it gravy.I have a friend,Venetian/NJ,calls it sauce..so maybe this North/South thing applies to Italy as it does in the US...because southern style gravy is nothing like northeastern variations on gravy themes....and now I have to go make some potatoes and ~
 
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