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Chat Leftovers: Thanksgiving Q&A

This is it: If you need answers to Thanksgiving questions, today's Free Range chat is your last chance to ask us before Turkey Day 2009. We'll have reinforcements on hand: Our columnists David Hagedorn, Stephanie Sedgwick and Andreas Viestad will be guest chatters. So bring us your culinary conundrums, and we'll do our best to help you out. See you there between 1 and 2 this afternoon.

Beautiful, lump-free gravy can be yours. (Julia Ewan/The Washington Post)

Just one hour. It never seems long enough. Here are a couple of Thanksgiving questions we couldn't get to last week before time ran out.

Every year I struggle with gravy. My grandmother’s is really wonderful, but pretty thick, so when I try to recreate it I make wallpaper paste. What’s a good fat-to-flour ratio to start with when making gravy?

It's not just fat to flour; it's fat to flour to liquid. What works for me, creating a not-very-thick gravy (the way I like it), is 2 tablespoons of fat, 2 tablespoons of flour and about 4 cups of liquid (defatted drippings, stock, wine, cider, etc.). First, of course, you cook the flour in the fat for a few minutes to get rid of the raw, floury taste. Then you whisk in most of the (heated) liquid and continue cooking until the mixture thickens. If it gets too thick, add more liquid.
For a thicker gravy, just start out with a little more fat and flour; or increase the ratio to 2 tablespoons of fat to 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of flour. I use that one if I'm going for a sauce with a little more body.
Good luck with replicating Grandma's gravy. Here's to a Thanksgiving free of wallpaper paste!

My 11-year-old wants to make a pie for Thanksgiving, including the crust. I have never had success with pie crust, but I have faith that she can do this. (She already makes dinner once a week, without cooking anything from a box or jar.). Do you have any suggestions for a straightforward, first-timer pie recipe that an 11-year-old (and/or a crust-challenged mom) can make?

Since it's Thanksgiving, I think pumpkin pie would be a nice, easy introduction. There's no cutting or chopping, just mixing. Buy canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) and go with the recipe on the can. You don't want to do anything fancy, because you're going to be focused on her first crust.

And for that, I'm going to send you to a Food Network video. Seems to me kids are more tuned in to videos than books, so this seems perfect. It's Paula Deen making a very simple dough, taking it step by step, and then showing how to roll it out and get it into the pie plate. She makes it look effortless, and it's not, but practice makes perfect. Have your daughter give it a try. Those who know it's her very first pie will find any imperfections utterly charming.

--Jane Touzalin

By Jane Touzalin  |  November 25, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Chat Leftovers  | Tags: Chat Leftovers, Free Range, Jane Touzalin, Thanksgiving  
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The standard gravy recipe is one tbsp fat and one tbsp flour for each cup of liquid. Four cups of liquid to two tbsps fat and flour would produce very thin gravy, indeed.

Posted by: margaret6 | November 29, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

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