Jamie Oliver’s Get-Ahead Gravy

I’m here to present to you a miraculous concept: you can make your gravy for Christmas a few days or even a few weeks ahead of time.  Then all you need to do is heat it up on the big day.  Gravy needs a lot of time to be truly excellent, and time is something you have much less of when you’re setting out a feast for the family.  So why not make it ahead of time?  Jamie Oliver does, and, last year, the Pie and I tried it for the first time, to fantastic results.

First, preheat your oven to about 400°F and get out your big turkey roasting pan.

Get Ahead Gravy

Roughly chop up 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks, and quarter 2 onions. Don’t even worry too much about the onion paper. That stuff will just make the gravy darker. Huck all those in the pan.

Get Ahead Gravy

Add in as well about 5 bay leaves, 5 sage leaves, 2 sprigs of rosemary, and 2 star anise.

Get Ahead Gravy

Then you need some chicken wings, about 8 whole ones. Bash them with a rolling pin or break the bones with the back of a sharp knife to release the marrow. Add those to the pan.

Get Ahead Gravy

Slice up a few rashers of a nice bacon and add that to the mix. Sprinkle everything with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and stick it in the oven.

Get Ahead Gravy

Roast for about 1 hour, until the vegetables are tender and the meat is falling off the bone.

Get Ahead Gravy

Put the pan on the stove element on low heat and take a potato masher to the contents. Start squishing and shifting around everything in the pan. It will smell glorious, and the longer you do this the darker your gravy will be.

Get Ahead Gravy

When you get bored with that, sprinkle about 4 tablespoons flour across the mix and stir it in.

Get Ahead Gravy

Then pour about 2 litres of hot water into the mix. Raise the heat to high and bring it to a boil.

Get Ahead Gravy

Turn it down to a simmer and let that go for about 25 minutes. Continue to mash that around with your masher.

Get Ahead Gravy

When it’s ready, scoop everything out into a sieve and push it through to get all the gravy goodness.

Get Ahead Gravy

Let your gravy cool to room temperature, then chuck it into the freezer.

Get Ahead Gravy

When you want to use it, simply defrost it and add it to the other juices from your roasted turkey, like an instant boost!

Get Ahead Gravy

Bay Leaf Wreath

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It’s getting to be that sort of holiday season, isn’t it?  I have a post coming up for you about some decorations on the cheap that I did last year, but in the interim, if you’ve got a bit more time, why don’t you make yourself a new wreath?

For some reason, at some point my mother bought an enormous bag of bulk bay leaves.  And she has used probably three of them in the past five years.  And even dried bay leaves don’t hold their flavour for five years.  Rather than throw them out, however, I thought I would make a seasonally-appropriate wreath with them instead.

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Normally when I’m making a wreath I buy a cheap ugly pre-made one from a second-hand store and then I take it apart. This time I bought a styrofoam wreath form from Michaels instead. I was SHOCKED at how expensive they are! This 11″ one cost me a whopping TWELVE DOLLARS. For a piece of styrofoam. Next time I’ll cut my own out of computer packaging or something, thank you very much … Fortunately I also found a bag of assorted jingle bells at Value Village for two dollars so that saved me. And of course I had my trusty glue gun on hand.

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The first thing I did was spray the wreath form all over silver with spray paint. Which was when I learned that even craft spray paint will dissolve styrofoam a little bit. Yikes.  I did this just in case there were any gaps in my leaves.  I wanted the whole thing to be silver.

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I wanted my jingle bells to stand in as pseudo-berries, so I wanted to spray them red. However, I wanted them to be a frosty red, so I only sprayed one side of each one with red spray paint. If you wanted to spray all sides of each jingle bell I would recommend threading them on a long string so you can get all sides evenly.

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Next I sorted out my bay leaves (pitching the broken ones) and sketched out a rough plan.

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Then I started gluing. I used smaller leaves on the outside and inside edges of the wreath, so they would fit better.

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Once I finished gluing on the leaves in the centre of the wreath, I started shoving random leaves in here and there, to fill in gaps but also to make the whole thing look a little less perfect.

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So that’s with all the leaves glued on. If my bay leaves had been fresher I would have left this as-is for a nice festive green, but of course mine were past their prime and thus looked a little sickly.

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This is my idea for how the bells were going to fit on. I was just going to group them in little batches and glue them on.

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So after I sprayed the wreath silver again to cover up all the green bits, I got my bells ready to go.

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To my dismay, however, I discovered that hot glue doesn’t stick to spray-painted bay leaves.

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In fact it just peels the paint right off.

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New plan. I grabbed my old spool of fishing twine and got to work with it.

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I strung a handful of assorted bells on a loop of twine and tied the twine in a knot to keep them tight.

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Then I simply tied the twine around the wreath form, weaving it under what leaves I could to hide it for the most part.

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Then on the back I added a spot of glue to each twine loop to hold it in place.

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And glued a nice blue ribbon on the top.

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And then I hung it up. TADA!

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Sweet Texas Pork Ribs

Obviously it’s been a sweet week with Rusty and Mags in town.  We’ve even had some awesome weather, and what better way to celebrate summer than ribs on the back porch?  It’s become kind of a yearly tradition with us and The People Downstairs, so we took advantage of a sunny day last Friday and had ourselves some ribs.  The sauce here makes enough for four racks of ribs and comes from an old LCBO magazine.

We got these ribs from Costco, and it’s a hit and miss process.  These ones were a very strange cut, and probably tougher than we would normally prefer.  But ribs is ribs. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

First you need to remove the membrane across the bone.  This will help to tenderize your meat and will ease the absorption of juices.  It also facilitates the removal of excess fat, and boy, did these ribs ever need some trimming!  Use a paper towel to help you grip the membrane on the bone side.  Then, with steady pressure, slowly pull it off.  It’s simple.After you’ve removed the membrane, place the ribs bone-side-up in a baking dish.Now you concoct the sauce.  In a bowl, mix together the following:

1/2 cup soy sauce

3 garlic cloves (or 4 teaspoons minced garlic)

2 bay leaves

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon chili sauce

2/3 cup beer (the darker the better)

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon green Tabasco sauce

2/3 cup barbecue sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Pour that stuff all over your ribs.

Use a pastry brush to coat the ribs evenly.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for an hour.  Remove the aluminum foil and bake for a further 30 minutes to thicken the sauce.

Remove the ribs from the oven. 

Place the ribs on your serving plate and cut to serving size (you might want to keep it in a low oven to keep the ribs warm). You can also toss them on the barbecue for a few minutes to caramelize the juices on them.   Drain the  sauce from the pan into a gravy separator to get rid of the fat.  Discard the bay leaves.  Then cook the sauce in a saucepan for a further ten minutes until it is reduced and thickened.  You can add corn starch to push this along if you need to.

Drizzle the hot thick sauce over your ribs and serve. 

We had ours with creamy garlic mashed potatoes and a fresh green salad.