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Old 02-23-2011, 08:28 AM   #1
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Please help me with this pot roast

My sister in-law makes this great pot roast.... well, it's really just beef chunks and gravy she serves over mashed potatoes. For years, when we go to her house for parties she's served this and we love it.

Last week we were there and my wife asked her how to make it. All she does is put a beef roast in the crock pot the day before. She fills the crock with water over the top of the roast and cooks it for 8 hours. She saves all the liquid most of which she uses for soup. The next day she uses some of the liquid to make gravy and chops up the roast and puts it back in the crock pot with the gravy to warm everything up.

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. OK, I did this and here's where things went horribly wrong! Instead of my gravy being a nice brown color like hers it was a light tan and instead of it tasting fantastic like hers it was the worst tasting sludge I've ever had. I tossed it, made up 2 packages of Mcormick's brown gravy and served it that way.

My wife is never going to call her sis in-law to get this figured out so I was hoping to get some guidance here. What do you folks suggest? How can I make a nice gravy with the liquid from my roast?

Thanks in advance for any advice.
Jay

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Old 02-23-2011, 08:40 AM   #2
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Did you brown your meat really well before cooking it? You really need to do that to get a dark meaty taste. You also might have used too much water.

When you make any roux-based sauce, combine the fat and flour into a smooth paste, cook for a minute or two and then add the liquid into the paste in a thin stream while whisking constantly.
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Old 02-23-2011, 09:38 AM   #3
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As Jennyema suggests, browning the meat before cooking will certainly help with both flavor and color. However, the most important advice is to use less liquid. You want the flavor to be more concentrated in both the meat and the gravy. Too much liquid will leach off much of the flavor.

You can use a roux for thickening, but it really isn't necessary to do so because there's usually already enough fat in the cooking liquid. The easiest and best way to thicken gravy is to make a slurry of flour and water, mixing until it is smooth and free of lumps and adding water until it is of a good pouring consistency. If you have trouble getting rid of all the lumps, you can strain it. Bring the gravy liquid to a low boil and stream the slurry into it a little at a time until it's almost the thickness you want, but stop adding the slurry before it gets too thick. Continue cooking for a couple of minutes to finish thickening it. If it's not yet thick enough, add more of the slurry and repeat. For a darker color, you can add a little of a browning agent such as Bovril (which may be hard to find in the US) or Kitchen Bouquet.
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Old 02-23-2011, 10:11 AM   #4
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Sounds like you didn't do the roux right. Cook it over low-medium heat until it is a nice rich brown color. This will help to darken the gravy, and makes sure teh flour taste is cooked out of the roux.
Then mix it in slowly, as advised. I was always told that to thicken, it must boil.
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Old 02-23-2011, 11:04 AM   #5
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A little more on the subject of making roux. It is an art that any aspiring cook should master but, again, is entirely unnecessary for thickening most gravies. Why bother with such a time-consuming extra step?

One of the best explanations of the technique and use of roux in Cajun/Creole cuisine is found here: Creole/Cajun: Know Your Ingredients . Roux is also necessary for making many classic French "mother sauces".
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Old 02-23-2011, 11:15 AM   #6
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I had always used Gravy Master for browner gravy (Kitchen Bouquet tastes too vegetable-y for me), but *sigh* I haven't found it here in New Orleans. A lady worker turned me onto a brand that worked, but I'd never heard of it. If you can get the Gravy Master, keep some on hand. It works!
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Old 02-23-2011, 12:02 PM   #7
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I had always used Gravy Master for browner gravy (Kitchen Bouquet tastes too vegetable-y for me), but *sigh* I haven't found it here in New Orleans. A lady worker turned me onto a brand that worked, but I'd never heard of it. If you can get the Gravy Master, keep some on hand. It works!
I also prefer Gravymaster or my favorite, Bovril, but both are a bit hard to find. Kitchen Bouquet is okay so long as you don't use too much of it. It will give you the desired brown color but doesn't really add much flavor. Some of the soup/stock bases such as Glory Foods Seasoned Beef Base also work (if you can find them).
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Old 02-23-2011, 12:15 PM   #8
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I learned to make brown gravy with soy sauce...I thought all gravy tasted like soy sauce while I was growiing up. It was the only flavoring my Mother used!
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Old 02-23-2011, 01:31 PM   #9
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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.Jay
Are you sure she uses olive oil? Personally I have never used olive oil for a roux. The smoking point is much lower than vegi, canola or peanut. If it "burns", you will surely get a foul taste.

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Old 02-23-2011, 02:42 PM   #10
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I'm with Craig C - for gravy roux I use the drippins from the pan and corn starch. Gravy Master works well too for the dark brown color. I can't imagine olive oil because it has a specific taste and you don't want to overpower the meat flavor of your liquid. Butter and flour work well too for a roux if you want to start with something kind of bland then add stock to that. Browning beef is essential to getting the flavor in the gravy.
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Old 02-23-2011, 09:05 PM   #11
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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.
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Old 02-24-2011, 12:02 AM   #12
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It may be that your sil forgot either the meat browning step or the roux browning step. Each will greatly increase the flavor and color of your product. If all else fails tell your sil how very much (fawn a little) you enjoy her food and would she please guide you through it step by step. You'll melt her heart and she can't really leave anything out if you are there to watch her make the dish and to sample the final product.
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Old 02-24-2011, 12:18 AM   #13
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I also prefer Gravymaster or my favorite, Bovril, but both are a bit hard to find. Kitchen Bouquet is okay so long as you don't use too much of it. It will give you the desired brown color but doesn't really add much flavor. Some of the soup/stock bases such as Glory Foods Seasoned Beef Base also work (if you can find them).
I added a little Kitchen Bouquet this evening when I made the turkey gravy.

I use granulated bullion for seasoned bases. I keep chicken and beef on hand.

I also use Ramen Noodles for the seasoning packet, as well as the Noodles when I want just enough for soup
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Old 02-24-2011, 01:26 AM   #14
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Jcv ~
My thoughts are that it is essential that the roast used for your SIL's recipe is a "pot roast" and that it is browned prior to putting in to the crock pot. (pot roasts are fattier cuts and fat means more flavor). Then for a richer gravy you might want to use beef broth or stock instead of water. I probably wouldn't bother with the roux and would just use flour and water shaken in a sealed plasticware container or a glass jar,
Be sure to use cool water. If the gravy still isn't flavorful, dark and rich enough, you might try adding some beef soup base, it's a paste, one brand sold around here is Bear Creek. Good luck!

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