Originally Posted by jcv
Her instructions for the gravy were this: use equal parts flour and olive oil to make a roux (1/4 cup each) and mix it into the hot but not boiling liquid and cook to thicken.
You can make a gravy any number of ways, but assuming she is telling the truth about how she does it, I suspect that she browns her roux to a pretty toasty state, at least the color of pecans. That browning would make up for the fact that apparently she doesn't brown her roast first (though if she did, it would be better).
A good brown roux is easiest in a cast iron skillet, with a wooden spoon or paddle. Put your olive oil (I would use butter, but that's me) in a 10" cast iron skillet and heat. Dump in the flour and mix with the oil. Turn the heat down to just over low and stir occasionally, until the browning starts - in about 5 minutes. You can go with a higher heat and stir more or a lower heat and stir less, within limits. I pick the heat according to what else I have to juggle in the kitchen. Once it starts browning, pay more attention to it, stirring often, until it is a rich brown color, slightly darker than you want your gravy to end up.. Add the liquid - or at least most of it to the roux, to get it well mixed with the liquid, let it come up to heat, though it need not boil at this time, if you are putting it all back in the crockpot.
Put the beef, the roux thickened liquid and any remaining that you need to get the quantity that she serves in the crockpot, stir and let it cook.
A few thoughts.
- The darker the roux. the less thickening power it has. The starch of the flour loses its ability to gel liquids as it caramelizes.
-Olive oil is chosen by a lot of folks for its heart healthy traits, but it has a distinct flavor and little tolerance for overheating. If "heart healthy" were my goal with a pot roast dish (and it isn't), I would use canola oil.
- butter is wonderful
Were I to make a dish of unbrowned beef roast and water in a crock pot, then turn it into a tips and gravy presentation, I would use about twice as much fat and flour as she apparently does, using butter or rendered beef fat and cook that roux to a dark mahogany color. When it was about pecan colored, I would add 2 t freshly ground black pepper and a bay leaf; the still oily roux would pick up those tastes more quickly that it would after liquid is added. Moments before I was going to add the liquid, I would mix in 2 t of salt, a T of chopped garlic and 1 t of an accent herb, like rosemary or thyme. You don't want to risk the garlic stage burning.
Cornstarch and Kitchen Bouquet work; arrowroot works; kneaded butter and flour work; flour slurry works; instant mashed potatoes work (for this and little else, lol), but if you want her product, I suspect a brown roux is in your future.