The Low Down

The human body is a metabolic marvel comprised of dozens of little systems connecting to create one complex system. Food is the fuel, the input, for the systems. Our metabolic machinery evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to function optimally on select fuels. These fuels were the original, Primal foods of the human organism. Over these hundreds of thousands of years our Big Game Hunting, small prey capturing, scavenging, foraging, gathering, opportunistic ancestors accumulated experience and wisdom about nourishing themselves. The learned to preserve and predigest foods to maximize the quality of their metabolic fuel. Eventually they learned to cook foods without destroying the important nourishing properties of the food, and then they learned to heal the human body with food. Only recently in the human evolutionary experience, have we abandoned all these hundreds of thousands of years of accumulated epicurean genius. Now we fuel our marvelous, complex metabolic machinery with crap invented to create profits for agribusiness. We have become dumb eaters. As we regain our eating intelligence it doesn't make sense to move back to the savannah and put out our fires or climb into our cave and pretend there is a glacier next door. It makes sense to fuel our bodies with all the primal human foodstuffs, prepared and preserved with accumulated ancestral wisdom and served up for the undeniable desires of the human taste buds. Primal, paleolithic food choices, handled according to ancient food ways resulting in outrageously good food.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's gravy

Gravy used to disgust me. I liked my turkey and potatoes dry as a kid. I'm not sure if this was a personal issue with stunted development or a commentary on the gravies I was served. Gravy is now the best part of any roasted meat meal, including the Thanksgiving behemoth, the turkey.

It is possible to get very sophisticated about terminology regarding gravy. "Gravy" is a thick, flour-based sauce. Potentially disgusting. A reduction sauce, or deglazed stock is thinner, more flavorful and all around more delicious, not to mention easily Paleo. Although we will serve this at our Thanksgiving table, and we will serve it out of a gravy boat, and we will call it gravy, it is not truly "gravy", it is a deglazed, reduction sauce. And it is better.

The first thing about making gravy is that if you are one of those super-stress freak type cooks who focuses more on the end result than on the process you need to get a hold of yourself. The gravy will be made after the turkey comes out of the oven when all the relatives and guests are peppering you with offers of "help" and/or asking when the food will be served. You will be tempted to rush and give in to this outside pressure. Don't do it. The final moments before a large meal with a roast of meat are sacred. Everyone but your true assistants steps aside. It is nice if the meat carver is a different person than the gravy maker. Do as my grandfather always wanted, and warm your gravy boat or dish on the back of the stove. Nothing takes a gravy downhill faster than pouring it into an ice cold dish.

If you begin the roasting process with that Holy Trinity of herbs (sage, rosemary and thyme) mixed in to softened butter, you will not have any worry regarding the flavor of your sauce. I slather this herb butter under the skin of my turkey as well as all over the top before it goes in the oven. Turkey skin is hardly attached to the meat, so this is easy. I use this melted butter as part of the pan drippings that I baste the turkey with during cooking. Once I remove the turkey form the roaster to the carving board I have a large pan full of delicous drippings. If the turkey was particularly succulent and there is a large amount of fat, I pour some of it off. I keep about 1 cup of fat in the roaster and all the other liquid and drippings. If you let your turkey get too dry during cooking you might need some additional stock or water. You can have additional stock on hand by simmering the "giblets", (the neck etc... that is in a little bag inside your turkey usually) in some water while the turkey is roasting. I like about 1 1/2c of liquid to 1c of fat, but to be honest, I usually just leave EVERYTHING in the roaster and get started. I take 1/2c of drippings out of the pan and put them in a pyrex measuring cup. I add 1/4c of arrowroot powder and I mix like mad until there are no lumps. Arrowroot is not as forgiving as flour about yielding up its lumps later on in the process. My grandmother's edition of The Joy of Cooking asserts that arrowroot will make the most delicate textured sauce! This gem of a book also reminds us that arrowroot has a neutral flavor and, unlike flour, does not need to be cooked to remove its "rawness". Arrowroot also has a calcium-base which makes it nice for the Paleo crew. Now, add your arrowroot mixture back into the roasting pan which you should have on a burner with the heat on medium. Whisk vigorously! At this point, your sauce is finished except for the addition of salt if you want it. I sometimes throw some onions, garlic, carrots, white wine etc... in around my roasting meat. You can use this as part of your sauce by removing all chunks of vegetables and blending them with stock before returning them to your roasting pan.


  1. I now know how to make Paleo gravy! The turkey was generously slathered with the herb butter and this really gave the gravy a wonderful flavor. I did not measure the drippings or try to separate any grease from the pan. It all combined uniformly and it was a hit at the table. Thank-you Jen, from now on I will use this method to fix turkey gravy...a new Thanksgiving Day tradition.

  2. This sounds great! I tried out making gravy from a roast chicken using arrowroot powder the other day and it didn't turn out so great - partly because it was chicken instead of turkey and partly because of amount of arrowroot and cooking technique I think. So I decided to look up some recipes before thanksgiving time to see what I could find. I think I'll give this one a go! Thanks for sharing :-)