With roux your gravy is made…

that is a bad play on a line from a poem by A. E. Housman, “With rue my heart is laden”.  Rue and roux are homophones – both pronounced roo. 

I’m here to talk about roux – the basis for that gravy y’all had on your turkey yesterday or for that cheese sauce that was on your mac ‘n cheese.

On Wednesday Ally Bean did a post about Thanksgiving and turkey and in the comments I outlined my ‘recipe’ for gravy – that is –  the kind you put on turkey or mashed potatoes not the ‘gravy’ we Italians put on pasta.

Alley Bean commented on my post of yesterday that she did indeed use that recipe and everyone liked it. Yay! I always wonder when I post recipes whether anyone ever tries them.

Roux is the basis for so many of the delicious foods you eat, whether you know it or not. And it is the easiest thing to make and should be considered Cooking 101 – learn to make roux and the sky’s the limit.

Basic recipe: 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons flour. Melt the butter over a low flame(heat), add the flour and then, keeping the heat low, stir, stir, stir. Wooden spoon works great, fancy cooks use a whisk. I prefer the wooden spoon. You want to stir this until is is smooth and creamy and you need to cook/stir it long enough to get the raw taste from the flour. How do you know you’ve reached that point? Taste a tiny bit – you’ll know.

Then comes the magic. Add one cup of liquid to the roux, raise the heat and stir and stir until it becomes thick and – Gravy.

Now then – making turkey or chicken gravy – use chicken bouillon. A beef dish? Beef bouillon.

Add a cup of milk instead of bouillon and you have white sauce aka bechamel. Got your basic white sauce made? Add cheese and you have cheese sauce for mac and cheese.

Now I jazz my gravy up – I use 3/4 cup of bouillon and 1/4 cup of white wine. I add a couple shots of worcestershire sauce, and sometimes, just for the heck of it, a couple of dashes of hot sauce.

The basic recipe gives you about one cup of ‘gravy’ but it is easy-peasy to double it, or even triple it.

The caveat here is: STIR. I’m sure you’ve all had lumpy gravy and that’s because the cook didn’t stir, stir, stir – keeping it smooth.

Here’s a link to everything you ever wanted to know about roux, what it is, how to make it and recipes using it.

Enjoy!

Miscelleanous Mishegoss

Today is Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.  We usually do our weekly grocery shopping on Thursday and while the grocery store will be open tomorrow we’ll be skipping that experience. We thought about going today but we really don’t need anything in particular  – so no grocery shopping this week. Feels odd.

Yesterday I had to go to the hospital to get a lung CT scan. I would usually use an Uber but due to a little phone glitch, totally my fault, and too long to go into and not all that interesting, I had to use Lyft. What fun that was. Really.

Car came much quicker than Uber usually does (even tho most people who do this are signed up at both Uber and Lyft) and the driver was friendly (most are). We had a lovely and lively chat on what was a 15 minute drive. As we were pulling up to the hospital entrance the driver said “I wish the ride was longer, I could talk to you all day. You’ve made my day” Well, now, I swear that brought tears to my eyes.  Anyone says anything nice to me and I get blubbery.

The ride home was also pleasant. Now here’s a thing. We always tip our drivers. I mean, how do you not? Minimum tip is $3.00, more for longer rides and more if the driver helps load and unload our groceries. After each ride yesterday I added the customary $3.00 tip. When I got home and checked email, along with my receipts, was an email from Lyft telling me I now had a “Top Tipper” badge.

We tip everyone who provides any kind of service for us. It is just what we do. We do have kinda set amounts for each service and it seems we are somewhat generous – at least that’s what we have been told.  I don’t know how people who can afford to pay for personal services don’t also tip the people providing it. Most of the time the providers of the service are not the highest paid people. No one is getting rich driving for Uber or Lyft. Or for delivering pizza.

It seems I’ve been doing some back patting here.  I don’t approve of back patting. I am uncomfortable with saying nice things about myself but I was struck by both those little incidents yesterday.

Also too – we had a light lunch yesterday (lunch is our “dinner”) so when I got home from the hospital I was a little hungry and there are no snacks of any kind in the house – not even a cookie. I mentioned that to my husband and that since we wouldn’t be grocery shopping there wouldn’t be any for a week plus no pumpkin pie. I could have bought it last week (Mrs. Callender’s pumpkin pie – to die for!) but I really didn’t have room in the freezer for it.

I thought of all the things I could bake, and they are limited. Lemon bars are out of the question because 1) They are sugar heavy and my husband has Type 2 diabetes so I have to go easy on the sugary stuff. 2) I don’t have any applesauce so I can’t make cocoa spice snacking cake 3) I can’t make any kind of pie because I have nothing to put INTO the pie.

What I CAN make though is chocolate cookies – deceptively delicious chocolate cookies. I made these for a self-proclaimed chocolate expert. He ate one, said “Not bad, not really sweet, just okay” and then he ate another one and another one. I think he downed 3 or 4 cookies in a matter of minutes. I said “They’re just okay? You just ate 4 cookies without stopping” He laughed and said “They just sneak up on you”.

So here’s the easy-peasy delicious cookies. Personally I do NOT add chocolate chips because I dislike chocolate chips and/or chunks of chocolate in my food. I do add nuts if I have any – you can find the recipe here – Double Chocolate Cookies

Just a list

Everyone is talking about Thanksgiving, another non-holiday. All ‘holidays’ are non-holiday to me since I celebrate none of them.

Being Italian-American Thanksgiving is probably a little weird, not one of our cultural traditions, certainly not the food! That said, any holiday that involves food, we could embrace – with our own food.

Thanksgiving we always had guests what we didn’t have was Anglo food – I refer to non-Italians, Northern European people as Anglos, just so you know.

Our Italian-American Thanksgiving dinners usually went something like this

Appetizer: A huge antipasto consisting of several types of salami, genoa, sopressata, prosciutto or prosciutine, celery sticks, roasted red peppers, olives, lots and lots of olives – cured black olives, cracked green olives, kalamata olives, pimento stuffed olives, provolone cheese, pepperoncini aka tuscan peppers, pickled eggplant, sometimes pickled cauliflower.  That’s all I can remember off the top of my head. And of course, bread.

Pasta Course Next: Lasagna or manicotti.  If manicotti then accompanied by the meat from the gravy aka tomato/spaghetti sauce.

And then: Eggplant parmigiana, sausage and peppers, asparagus with homemade hollandaise sauce, the meat from the gravy (if not previously served with the manicotti), sausage stuffing (my mother’s recipe is lost to history but it was mostly sausage and grated vegetables and often never made it out to the table because we scarfed it in the kitchen while preparing the rest of the meal. Too bad for the guests.) Probably more vegetables like broccoli or broccoli rabe and a mixed green salad. Also – more bread.

The Turkey? – Ah, well – if one was cooked, and sometimes, as I said before it never made it out of the freezer, it stayed in the kitchen, mostly forgotten unless someone asked. Personally I just liked the wings so I would snag them.

After Dinner:  Black coffee aka demitasse or as you may know it, espresso served with anisette. Plus fruit, nuts, and roasted chestnuts hot from the oven.

After After Dinner: Dessert – served with ‘brown coffee’ aka just regular coffee or tea if someone wanted. Store bought Italian pastries – you all know what they, are including cannoli and sfogliatelle. Homemade pumpkin pie, mince pie (oh how I love mince pie) and homemade cookies – OH MY GOD – the cookies. My mother wasn’t much of a cook but man oh man could that woman bake! Her cookies were famous, famous, I tell you. You can start with the simple cream cheese cookies and go to nuggets, fig bars, mounds of struffoli  plus Hamantaschen, which is a Jewish pastry/cookie associated with Purim, but which we ate throughout the year because my mother’s were the best Hamantaschen you ever laid your lips around.

This eating marathon usually started around 3pm and lasted until about 9pm when leftovers were parcelled out and people started for home.

I know I’ve left foods out – these dinners ended when my father died in 1973, so my memory may be a little fuzzy.

And, yes, Christmas was pretty much the same. Easter dinner not quite so elaborate because it featured roast leg of lamb. New Years Day dinner, again not so elaborate and it featured a pork roast. Lamb and pork being traditional for those ‘holidays’.

So there you go.

 

It was a long time ago

and I can remember some details of that Summer. (Referencing yesterday’s post.) I don’t know what Rita meant by “stupidity on Lexington Avenue, stupidity on the F train towards The New School etc….”  I can’t decipher some of her handwriting.

Every time I read that inscription I get annoyed that she added “Thoreau’s friend  under “R. Waldo Emerson” – as if I didn’t know who he was. How does one stay irked for 54 years?

According to history 1967 was the Summer of Love and The Long Hot Summer – I don’t think we were aware of all of that. Oh we were aware of race riots, war protests, San Francisco with flowers in your hair – but we were also oh so young.

I was 5 months away from my 21st birthday, Rita was maybe a year or two younger. We, both of us, were naive and cynical at the same time.

I was an over educated, blue collar class girl who didn’t fit into where she was from, working for a living in an upper class privileged environment where she didn’t belong.

Rita was an upper class, privileged girl working for the summer at a made-up-just-for-her job, courtesy of her parent’s connections, easily trading quips in French with some of the editors.

Oh, did I forget to say I/we were working at the Encyclopedia Americana? I was the clerical assistant to one of the senior editors. Rita was, well, occupying a desk in the same room as I, doing whatever they gave her to do.

Rita didn’t fluff off on the work but she knew it was just her parent’s way of getting her to see how the other half lives. I think she was rather bemused that someone, me, so close to her in age, had to actually work for a living, that I paid my own bills, that I went to a *gasp* community college at night.

I don’t remember which college Rita was going to, Columbia, Barnard – something along those lines. Somewhere pricey, high falutin, intellectual.

Hard to describe who I was at the time – idealistic, cynical, practical, pragmatic, sophisticated to a degree, naive and dewy-eyed, street-wise to a degree but also, oh-my-god is anyone that clueless.

Rita was a bleeding heart liberal, not really spoiled but, not someone who knew what it was like to live in the world I came from. She could talk the politics of the day – the war, the civil rights movement, social inequality but she never lived it. It hadn’t really touched her.

So what did we have in common besides our youth? Initially, I think that was all. Aside from the office boy, we were the only young people in the office. It was rather inevitable that we would become summer friends.

As for the stupidity Rita refers to, I can only imagine it was youthful hi-jinks. I always had a penchant for the silly and Rita was a very *serious* young woman. I guess I introduced Rita to the goofy, as well as the reality of how the other half lived.

I never saw or spoke with Rita after that summer, that I recall. It would be interesting to know what she did with her life.