Regardless of whether you want to add extra moisture to a meat, enhance the flavor of your bread, or give your potatoes a creamy twist, what you need is a white gravy! And while the easiest way to go about is to buy a pre-ready mix, once you see how easy it is to prepare a white gravy at home, you will never resort back to prepackaged mixes.
White gravy, cream gravy, or sawmill gravy is a sauce popular in Southern United States cuisine, and every Southerner takes pride in their own family recipe, claiming it to be the best one in the world. However, the white gravy is something we believe should enter every American household, and make a grand entrance for that matter.
How to Prepare the Best White Gravy
The white gravy is, in fact, a Béchamel sauce, i.e. a sauce made out of a roux and milk. A “roux” is a sauce thickener made from flour and fat. Typically, the fat for a roux is made from clarified butter or vegetable oils, however, in a sawmill gravy, the fat should come in the form of meat drippings. And to go the Southern way? Bacon grease it is!
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You will need a large, deep skillet for this gravy. Heat around 4 tablespoons of butter or oil on a medium heat and add the meat you will be serving the gravy with, or add half-a-pound of smoked bacon. Fry it to crisp perfection and use the leftover pan drippings as the base for your gravy. You will need around 5 tablespoons of it for the gravy’s base. Remember, this is a great excuse to snack on that crispy bacon.
Add 4 tablespoons of flour into the grease and whisk until the grease is absorbed. Do this until it reaches the color of peanut butter. Don’t do the mistake of adding whole wheat flour, rather, stick to the good old all-purpose one.
Now it is time to pour the milk in. Three cups of it to be more precise. Make sure you do this in a slow manner, while constantly whisking the mixture. Continue whisking until the mix is well-blended.
Bring everything to a boil, then proceed to reduce the heat to medium-low. Once the heat has been reduced, continue simmering for 8 to 10 minutes. It is now the time to season the gravy. Bearing in mind that the Sothern version is famous for the black specks in it, go with salt and pepper. You can, however, add additional seasonings to taste, cayenne pepper and parsley being the most common choices. If you are bolder and like to experiment, though, you can always enhance your gravy’s flavors by adding onion or garlic powder.
Keep whisking until you get the desired thickness, and remember, scraping the sides and bottom of the skillet will ensure thorough blending and you needn’t worry about the gravy sticking or drying out. If you aim at a thicker gravy, prolong the cook time, if you want the gravy thinner, pour some more water or more milk to thin it out. A good rule of thumb would be to make the sauce thinner if you are not planning on serving it right away. As it will continue thickening as it sits.
The Best Foods to Serve Your White Gravy With
We have already established that EVERYTHING tastes better with a gravy, white gravy in this case. There is a whole palette of meals that are going to become richer in both taste and texture by simply being served with a white gravy. We have however selected a few we thought are a white gravy staple!
Since this post revolves around the southern white gravy recipes, it is only logical that we give you a recipe that is oh-so-popular in the South too. In fact, the chicken fried steak is a dish Texans swear by and once you’ve prepared it and tried it, you will know why.
For those of you who wondered whether the recipe’s name is a result of a lapsus calami, i.e. thought that we have mistaken chicken fried steak for fried chicken, this is not the case. Although the stake itself is prepared much like the Southern fried chicken is. The cube steaks are breaded and then fried in a cast iron skillet for around 3-5 minutes per side, or until crisp. You can then use the pan drippings to create your own white gravy from scratch following the instructions above. Spoon the gravy onto the steak and enjoy a hearty Texan dish. Pair this stake with a yummy salad of choice.
Now this recipe’s name won’t get you confused, but try and wrap your head around this: this is a chicken fried chicken. Yup, it is the chicken alternative to the steak in the recipe above, and it is nothing short of PERFECT. The white gravy ties everything together and by preparing a side dish as simple as mashed potatoes, you will get a dinner-worthy meal that is going to be a family favorite!
And just as you thought we forgot all about pork, we give you this great recipe. Made in only 35 minutes, it is a simple and quick meal that is guaranteed to be loved by the entire family. The flavor of the white gravy is enhanced with parsley and sage (2 tablespoons of each, chopped). This dish pairs beautifully with boiled rice to balance the flavors.
Prepare these veggies as a side dish for any of the above-mentioned recipes. But don’t be taken aback by the honey and balsamic vinegar. If you think they won’t work with the white gravy on your meat, then try the other alternative: rosemary, sesame ginger or white-wine.
Although biscuits go great with a little bit of butter and some honey, you will be surprised at how tasty they are slathered with white gravy. In fact, don’t wait, prepare them the first chance you get.
Vegan White Gravy
There is not a reason why vegans can’t enjoy a nice white gravy with a mock meat or tasty veggies. To prepare a vegan white gravy, replace the dairy milk with a non-dairy version. Opt for soy or rice milk since almond and coconut milk come with a somewhat sweet aroma and taste. Instead of butter use a vegetable oil and follow the same steps as for the regular gravy (this goes for the lumps avoiding part too). For a lighter gravy go for a combination of rice or soy milk with a vegetable broth.
How to Avoid Lumps in Your Gravy
One of the biggest struggles when preparing gravies is them turning lumpy. No flour-based gravy is immune to forming lumps and this is almost always a result of not incorporating the flour in the right manner.
Why do lumps appear? The process is the following: flour granules absorb heated liquid. When not kept separate, the granules release starch and then clump together, when they clump some of the flour remains trapped inside and this is how lumps are formed.
To avoid this, instead of simply pouring the flour into the saucepan while whisking do the following. If the gravy recipe calls for say 4 tablespoons of flour, scoop 4 tablespoons of the liquid that the meat drippings and the fat formed and pour it into the flour. You should get a thick paste and then pour it into the pan and continue preparing your roux as you usually would.
As soon as the roux has been prepared lump free, the next step is adding the milk (for the white sauce) or any other mixture for other gravies. Either way, you should bear one thing in mind: they have to be at different temperatures. In the case with the white gravy, it is best if you pour in cold milk into the hot roux. The difference in temperatures will give enough time for the roux and broth to get evenly mixed just before the starch granules swell and burst.
Of course, you can always remove any larger lumps by whisking in a figure-eight pattern. If this process doesn’t help in removing the larger lumps, then use a mesh strainer to strain them.
Finally, if you are left with no other option, and you REALLY hate lumps, you should resort to pouring the gravy into a blender or food processor and pulse it for a few minutes. Go ahead and return the lamp-free gravy to the saucepan and reheat.
A fun way to get rid of lumps is actually not really getting rid of them but hide them by adding diced giblets, or broccoli or other veggies for vegans.
We can all agree that gravies make every dish better, and preparing a white gravy is so simple that buying pre-ready mixes seems ridiculous!