I started hosting holiday dinners for the family a few years after we got married. However, there was always one item that intimidated me: gravy. After many different attempts at making gravy, I no longer fear it. It did take awhile to get over the phobia though!
So, here are some general tips for cooking, starting with gravy:
Gravy: Homemade gravy is a wonderful thing. The key component for making gravy to me is a gravy measuring cup. (Click here for photo.) It is a fantastic little invention where there is a little spigot that comes from the bottom of the measuring cup. That way, when you poor the drippings from the meat you are cooking, the fat flows to the top and you can poor all the wonderful broth right into your saucepan. (Let the ‘broth’ settle for a few minutes so the fat has time to rise.) I do know that some people like to make gravy directly from the pan the meat roasted in, but I prefer to filter out the fat some first.
Anyway, I pour the broth into a saucepan, including a tablespoon of the fat from the drippings for each cup of broth I use. I heat the mixture on the stove. I then combine 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch with some water and mix together so there are no lumps. (You don’t want a paste here, it needs to be enough water so it is just pourable.) Once the broth/fat combination is heated up, I pour the cornstarch/water combo into the broth and stir quickly to prevent lumps from forming. If I have been boiling potatoes, I like to use some water from the potatoes to mix with the cornstarch. Keep stirring on high heat and let the gravy thicken. You may need a little more fat or a little more cornstarch/water mixture, depending on how you like the consistency and flavor. I sometimes I have to add a little bit of salt and pepper. You can season however you like. You can also mix the cornstarch with broth instead of water. You just want the cornstarch to not be lumpy. (By the way, it is 1-2 TBSP of corn starch for every cup of broth.) When making gravy, always have bouillon cubes nearby in case you need to make some extra broth.
Miscellaneous Cooking Tips:
*Use a melon baller to scoop cookie dough and place on the cookie sheet.
*Save wrappers from sticks of butter/margarine to grease pans/pyrex dishes. Store wrappers in the freezer.
*Make sure you use dry measuring cups for dry ingredients and liquid (usually glass) measuring cups for liquid ingredients. It is a lot easier to be accurate when using the correct type of cup for what you are measuring. (Hard to measure an exact cup of water in a dry measuring cup without spilling all over the place..)
*Don’t wash mushrooms under the faucet. Just use a damp cloth or paper towel and wipe them off.
*Use a plastic knife to cut warm brownies. They don’t crumble nearly as much using a plastic knife as they do using a metal knife.
*When boiling corn on the cob, add a few tablespoons of sugar to the boiling water. However, do not add salt as that is thought to toughen the corn.
*If you are hosting many people, make as many side dishes ahead of time as possible. (Such as sweet potato casserole.) If you do make something ahead of time and put it in the refrigerator, pull it out of the fridge of ahead of time and let it warm up a little before placing it in the oven. (Or extend the baking time if you forget.) Also, know your recipes well in advance. For example, say you are making a pie using a store bought crust. You have to remove that crust from the fridge and let it warm up to room temperature first or it will not unroll properly. Just because a recipes says ‘ready in half an hour’ doesn’t mean that covers everything. Read all instructions ahead of time.
*Finally- don’t just trust the little pop-up timer that a turkey comes with. Always use a meat thermometer.
If you have any cooking tips, I would love to hear them- so please leave a comment!