We all know gravy or pan sauce in large quantities might be good for our soul but it isn’t so good for our heart health. After all we are doing nothing more then adding flour or cornstarch to the fat in the bottom of a roasting or sauté pan to thicken it and adding back some stock, wine, or cream for volume. So we have deemed it less healthy which to me means it is an occasional treat and as such we reserve serving gravy for holiday feasts or occasional celebrations, and rightly so.
So why then when I look into the chicken-less roasting pan that held tonights dinner only a short time ago and I see those beautiful glistening juices that are on the edge of coagulating do I feel like I am throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Don’t get me wrong I am no health nut. In fact I have this beautiful physique that could make me the poster child for a Bittman campaign on obesity. I am sure it goes back to my waste not want not way of thinking. Nevertheless all this made me think.
When I make my own stock I always cool it down, put it in the fridge and then the next day I lift the disc of fat off the top. I know the stock is pretty fat free, although I haven’t calculated it and I have know idea how to do so, but it has to be pretty lean and I also know it has very little salt because I didn’t add any. So looking at it in this light I started refrigerating the roasting pan and the next day I remove all the fat cap and what is left is the reduced intensely rich jelly. I use a rubber spatula and scrap all the jelly up and into a small Ball jar. I have already made a plan for its use, did so before I even roasted the pork, beef or chicken, so I know when I store it in the fridge it will be used up in a day or two. I could freeze it but I don’t like to collect things like this and my motto is use it or loose it.
The jelly is infinitely better then bouillon cubes or stock base and can be used in all sorts of ways. Sometimes I like the jelly to have lots of debris(meat bits and spices) and other times I don’t but it is easy to heat and strain, if you need too, just before you want to use it. While you don’t have too I often try to keep in mind the flavors of what I roasted with the flavors of what I am going to make with the pan juices just to make sure they coincide.
Pan juice possibilities:
- Of course it is always good to use the pan juices in soups. Added to the broth it can give a flat soup the kick it needs.
- Pasta or noodles of all kinds.
- For chicken pan juices: Make a simple fresh lemon juice and olive oil vinaigrette with salt and lots of fresh ground pepper, take a couple big hand fulls of baby Bibb lettuces and toss it with the dressing. Just before serving heat the pan juices and drizzle over the salad for a “healthier” wilted salad.
- For beef: You could make Grits and debris. Make a bowl of grits, pour on the warm pan juices and top with a fried egg.
- For pork: Ramen noodles.
Pasta with Chicken, Black Olives and Lemon
12 or 16 ounce box of spaghetti noodles
extra virgin olive oil
half a can of black olives, drained
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken meat
4 cloves of garlic, trimmed, peeled and slivered
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup chicken stock
2 to 3 tablespoons pan juices
1 tablespoon parsley, minced
1. Place a large pot filled with 4 quarts of salted water over high heat.
2. While you are waiting for the water to come to a boil place a sauté pan over medium heat. Add a good glug or two of extra virgin olive oil. Add the garlic and let it gently cook until it just begins to turn golden, be careful because browned garlic can be very bitter. Add the white wine and let the alcohol burn off. Now add the lemon juice, stock and pan juices. Bring them to a boil and season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Reduce the heat and let the liquid reduce.
3. When the water is at a roiling boil add the spaghetti. Cook according to the directions on the box, I am guessing 10 minutes or so. Once the pasta is just tender remove a cup of pasta water and reserve it, drain the pasta and immediately add it to the pan along with the chicken, olives and lemon zest. Season the pasta with salt and fresh ground pepper. Taste and make the necessary adjustments. If it is to dry add a little bit of pasta water. This is the kind of pasta that should have a broth. Toss to combine and once the chicken is hot add the parsley toss again and serve with lots of parmesan.