Sunday, November 27, 2016

Gluten-Free, Fat-Free Gravy

Brown Rice Flour
There is an easy, gluten-free solution to making a silky, thick gravy ... brown rice flour! What's even more attractive is it can also be fat free.  

Wheat flour is commonly used to thicken soups, sauces and gravies by incorporating in the form of a roux (flour and fat) or a slurry (flour and a liquid). With the increased attitude towards wheat and avoiding it, substitutes don't always deliver a satisfactory result. Not so with thickening soups, sauces and gravy using Brown Rice Flour. Holiday turkey dinners at my house are always accompanied by a large, 4 liter  pot of brown rice flour thickened gravy. After the meal when I reveal my 'secret', not one guest has ever said they could tell something was different.

Unlike wheat flour or starches, brown rice flour is incorporated into boiling liquid a little at a time with constant whisking. Once incorporated, the gravy, soup or sauce must be moved to a low heat burner and simmered, partially covered for 15-20 minutes... stir or whisk occasionally. This cooks off the 'grainy' texture, characteristic of rice flour. Strain to remove any lumps. Rice flour, especially when used in larger amounts, dilutes seasoning. It is a good habit to always taste and adjust your seasoning before serving.

Brown Rice Flour can be found in bulk at 'The Bulk Barn' and most grocery stores packaged under the 'Bob's Red Mill' brand. Also found in larger packages at 'Edible Island', 'Naked Naturals' and all health food stores. 

Brown rice flour is a gluten-free alternative to thickening gravy with roux. For a fat-free version, skim and remove all fat from the stock and pan drippings. It is important to simmer the gravy for 15-20 minutes after the addition of the rice flour, to cook off the ‘grainy’ texture.  

1 cup flavorful chicken stock 
Pan drippings 
3 to 4 Tbsp. brown rice flour 
Seasonings... granulated garlic, minced herbs, freshly ground pepper, sea salt, Worcestershire sauce, bouillon powder or cubes, tamari etc.

Deglaze the roasting pan with some of the stock. Strain into a small saucepan, add the remaining stock and desired seasonings. For fat-free gravy, skim and remove all fat from the stock and drippings then bring to a rolling boil. With a wire whisk, add brown rice flour slowly, while whisking vigorously. If you want thicker gravy, add a little more rice flour in the same manner. 
Move the pot to another burner set to low heat, partially cover and allow to just simmer slowly for 15-20 minutes, stir occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings. Strain and serve. 

**CHEF'S NOTE: to thicken soups, gravies and other sauces; use a ratio of 2-3 Tbsp. per cup of liquid. Unlike other thickeners, the liquid will thicken while whisking in the rice flour. Stop adding when you feel your soup is thick enough. If after simmering, if the soup is too thick, use more stock to bring it to the proper consistency. With experience, you will become accustom to the ratio required to achieve consistency you prefer. 

Till next time... Bon Appétit!

Recipe and Photo by Sally Rae

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Freezer Meals

I came home with a 'bug' that took the wind out of my sails and over a month later, I'm
still struggling with a cough and low energy. Through this I managed to plant and mulch the garlic for next summer. Also cut down and mulch the two boxes of strawberry plants with straw, which brings the garden close to closure for this year. 
Filling the upright freezer for winter
I am feeling behind with preparation for the season but managed to get a few big pots of soup made for the freezer. I have two freezers, a chest for raw meat, fish and poultry and an upright for fruit, baking and prepared foods. It also holds the ice packs for when we do a grocery shop off Island. Although the upright freezer is not as efficient in a power outage, the ice packs help retain some temperature.

I love the upright freezer, it's like a grocery store of my home made, ready to heat and eat meals... like pre-cooked shepherds pie, lasagna, sauces, soups etc. The other benefit is that the shelves help to actually find what you are looking for without too much digging around. 
Garlic Scape and Basil Pesto~2oz bags
Roasted Tomato Sauce~12oz and 8oz bags
Roasted Tomato Sauce and several flavors of Pesto are both frozen in zip type bags. The sauces are prepared, cooled then measured into bags that are marked with the date, amount and frozen flat on bake sheets. Once frozen, the flat bags stand neatly in shoe boxes on the top shelf. The soups are packed in single serving, 2 cup containers and easily stack three cartons high.

Many of my freezer soups have no recipe, just a list of ingredients and a few guideline instructions. For those who are comfortable with the knowledge of flavors, consistency and texture... and cooking without measuring and without a recipe, this is an easy task. For those who need a bit more guidance, I have given some measures below. Here is my favorite freezer soup...

Spicy Sausage and Kale Soup
This is my favorite, fast soup. Spicy Italian sausage has enough seasoning that very little adjusting is necessary. I like to serve it with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream.
6-8 Spicy Italian sausages
1 onion, diced
3-4 quarts flavorful chicken stock
brown rice flour or roux, for thickening
a bunch of kale; washed, stems removed and chopped

Remove sausage meat from casing and fry in oil; breaking into small, bite sized pieces. Add diced onion and fry until lightly browned. Remove from heat, drain excess fat and set aside. Meanwhile, heat and thicken chicken stock to desired thickness. Add cooked sausage mixture and chopped kale to thickened stock. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, taste and adjust seasoning.

Till next time... Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae
Recipe by Sally Rae