Make your gravy pop with boosts from the umami-carrying mushroom and a nip of brandy.

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Mastering a silky smooth gravy is always a useful technique to have in your apron pocket, especially when you’re hosting Thanksgiving.

“I think of it as much as a process as a recipe,” says Tyler Fox, a personal chef who contributes restaurant reviews to The Kansas City Star.

Recently we asked Fox to demonstrate how to make a great gravy.

He chose a recipe that does not require pan drippings so you can make the gravy ahead of last-minute meal preparations and allow it to simmer on the back burner. Of course, if you have pan drippings, you can stir them in for flavor before serving.

Fox’s fat of choice: duck fat. If you’ve ever had duck fat fries at a French bistro, you know duck fat has great flavor and offers a high flashpoint for lovely browning and crispness. It is increasingly available at specialty stores and online. (In case you’re wondering, duck fat is nutritionally similar to olive oil.)

Fox sautes garlic, minced onions and diced shiitake mushrooms in duck fat to develop umami, a savory taste that adds a layer of deliciousness by developing the naturally occurring glutamate in the mushrooms.

He then adds a few tablespoons of butter and Wondra Flour — a flour that dissolves more easily than the all-purpose variety — to make a roux. At its essence, a roux is simply a lump of flour and fat. The longer you cook a roux, the deeper the flavor.

For this recipe, Fox likes to cook his roux to a shade of peanut butter brown before vigorously whisking in simmering hot stock a few cups at a time.

Just before taking it off the burner, he hits the gravy with brandy for acidity and some soy sauce, which is also high in umami. For a thinner gravy, stir in a bit of cream.

Thanksgiving Shiitake Mushroom and Brandy Gravy

Makes: 2 quarts

2 quarts homemade or 2 (32-ounce) cartons store-bought low-sodium chicken or turkey stock, divided

3 tablespoons duck or turkey fat

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped

6 medium-size fresh shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped

3 tablespoons butter

6 tablespoons Gold Medal Wondra or bread flour

1/4 cup brandy, divided

2 teaspoons tamari soy sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons heavy cream, to finish (optional)

In a medium-sized saucepan, measure out 7 cups of the stock and warm over medium heat, reserving the extra cup of stock.

In another medium saucepan, heat the duck fat over medium heat until nearly smoking. Add garlic, onion and shiitake mushrooms and cook 3 to 4 minutes until mushrooms and onions are softened.

Add butter until melted, then sprinkle the flour over the mixture, stirring with a whisk to incorporate. Cook the roux about 4 minutes until well-browned and you smell a pleasantly nutty aroma. Add half of the brandy (about 2 tablespoons) and soy sauce, continuing to whisk another minute until slightly reduced.

Start pouring in warm stock about a cup at a time until you’ve added not quite all of the stock, whisking continuously to incorporate and avoid lumps. If you need more after 6 cups of stock, add in 1/4 cup increments. Bring the gravy to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons brandy, cook another 1 to 2 minutes, then taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper. If gravy seems too thick, whisk in a bit more of the reserved cup of stock until desired consistency.

At this point you can strain through a fine mesh sieve for smoother gravy, pressing on solids to extract the flavor. Or use a blender to puree. To finish, stir in 2 tablespoons of heavy cream, if using.

Serve warm in a gravy boat or bowl.

Per 2-tablespoon serving: 34 calories, 51 g fat, 2 g fat (1 g saturated), 3 mg cholesterol, 2 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 22 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber.

Source: Tyler Fox

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