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Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 06:12 am

Bloody good gravy

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Bloody good gravy
to be served with roast beast

Sure, you can serve spaghetti with tomato sauce and give it a creepy name, maybe Guts and Gore. But let’s face it: everybody will know it’s just, well, spaghetti and tomato sauce.

The dark red/purple beets do a much better job of imitating actual blood. In fact, there’s a variety named Bull’s Blood. Surprisingly, even though there is a substantial proportion of beets in the gravy, their flavor is just a background note; probably few would even guess what’s creating the gravy’s bloody color. I also initially thought that the beets might make the gravy too sweet, but it’s not.

I got the idea for roast beast from a line in Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas: “… he [the Grinch] took the roast beast.” You can roast any kind of beast you would like, although I think it works particularly well with pork, not least because the gravy shows up particularly well on the lighter (than beef) meat. The Beast can even be vegetarian, using seitan or mock hamburger to make a beastloaf.

Happy Halloween!

• 3-4 red beets (more if they’re small)
• 1/3 c. pan drippings from roasting the Beast, or substitute butter, vegetable oil or bacon fat
• 1/2 c. chopped onion, NOT super sweet
• 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
• 4 c. chicken, beef, pork or vegetable stock, cold or at room temperature
• Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Beets vary greatly in size; you will need 1 and 1/2 cups of roasted, chopped beets to make the gravy.

If the beets have stems and leaves, cut them off leaving about 2 inches of stems attached. Scrub well. Wrap in a foil packet in one layer, sealing the foil tightly. If the beets are in several sizes, make individual packets, or group them by size. If the beets are different colors and include red beets, wrap the colors separately so the red beets won’t stain the others. Alternatively, the beets can be placed on a rimmed baking sheet or a baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer (separated, if necessary as above.) Cover the baking sheet or dish tightly with foil.

Bake until the beets can be pierced easily with a knife. Baking time will depend on their size(s); small beets can take as little as 30 minutes, larger beets take from 40-60 minutes or more.

When the beets are completely tender, open the foil and let them stand until they have cooled enough to handle, then rub the skins off; they will slip off easily, as will the top stem area. Use plastic gloves to avoid staining your hands.

Coarsely chop enough of the cooked beets to measure 1 1/2 cups. Place the beets in the container of a blender or food processor.

Using the pan drippings from whatever kind of “beast” you have roasted will make the most flavorful gravy, so use those drippings if at all possible. For making gravy with pan drippings, remove the “beast” from the pan, cover and keep warm. Scrape any fat and accumulated juices from the pan into a measuring cup. If it doesn’t equal 1/3 cup, or if there’s little fat and a lot of juice, spoon the fat off into another measuring cup and add enough butter, oil, etc., to make up 1/3 cup. Put the fat and juices back into the roasting pan and place it on the stove over medium heat

If you don’t have the pan drippings, put 1/3 cup of whatever fat you’re using in a large skillet over medium heat.

When the fat is hot but not smoking, add the chopped onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened. Add the flour and stir until any lumps of flour have dissolved. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is golden brown, about 5 minutes. If using pan drippings, be sure to scrape the brown bits sticking to the bottom of the pan into the mixture.

Scrape the mixture into the blender containing the beets. Add 2 cups of the stock and process until completely puréed.

Pour the purée back into the pan. Put the remaining stock into the blender and give it a couple pulses to incorporate the purée remaining in the blender, then add it to the pan.

Over medium-high heat, whisk the mixture together and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until the gravy has thickened and reduced enough that it’s somewhat darker. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and the vinegar, if using. Makes about 4 cups.

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