Though people have always thought I was from New York, my family is all DC, Virginia and North Carolina. And our roots are strictly country. When I say “country” I’m talking about that working on the farm-getting-up-at-daybreak-to-make-grits-ham-and-biscuits-before-you-work-the-fields kind of country.
As a boy I spent a week of my summers in my Grandma Sally’s hometown of Powhatan, VA where I was awoke to the sounds of dogs chasing loose cows back into the pen, cookie-eating goats, and the howling of wild dogs in the night. This is a good precursor for story:
My father, a foodie at heart, once took my great grandma’s second husband out to a French restaurant for dinner. Clauston, a country boy with a big heart and generous pockets (he always gave me a dollar whenever I came to see him) didn’t much about food other than what had come out of his mama’s kitchen. So when the waiter showed up with a basket of dry bread and sat it before him, his first question was “Where’s the gravy?”
The waiter seemed confused by this. But Clauston was more annoyed as my father tried to explain. ”All this bread and no gravy, Melvin?” I imagined what followed in the back of Clauston’s mind was “Why in the hell this boy bring me to a place like this?”
I made some changes in my diet in 2011 that have truly been for the best. I cut down my consumption of all meats except for lamb, fish and shellfish (excluding the need to taste things I was making for clients). Not only was the end result a healthy amount of weight loss, but I saw my digestion improve and my hunger decrease. So when there was a holiday sale on legs of lamb at my local supermarket (eight bucks each!), I came home with a big fattest leg of my only red meat to have a ball with.
Remembering Clauston and my own lack of experience with gravy outside of watching my Uncle Tony make it at family functions over the last decade, I figured I’d give it a try myself.
Any recipe for gravy is pretty easy. You put the fat or a large piece of meat you generally wouldn’t eat on its own into a pot along with some seasoning. Then you add water and let it come to a slow boil. The essence of the meat is absorbed by the boiling water, and with a little flour and butter you’ve got something nice and rich to pour over your meat and potatoes.
So I trimmed the fat off my lamb leg and sauteed it in olive oil with some shallots, garlic chips and lemon pepper. After it was sufficiently cooked, filled the skillet with water, brought it to that slow boil and regularly stirred in a few heaping tablespoons of flour until the consistency was just right. I plopped in a gratuitous chunk of butter, which darkened the color and enriched the flavor. And there I was with my very first pot of lamb gravy.
As it’s high in fat, cholesterol and sodium, I wouldn’t suggest taking the gravy boat to work everyday. But when it’s the holidays and it’s been a long year full of trying to play it straight on a road full of twist and turns, sometimes you just have to indulge.