Nearly everyone, from the casual foodie to the world-class gourmand, reveres a smooth, rich gravy that clings to food like a velvety blanket and brings whatever it covers to perfection. Consistency, mouthfeel and thickness – the triumvirate of a stellar sauce – separates an average, run-of-the-mill gravy from something extraordinary. You can thicken gravies, perfect their mouthfeel and fine-tune their consistencies two ways: with a slow, low-heat reduction, or by adding a starch, such as granulated tapioca. Cooking gravy with granulated tapioca has a few advantages over the old standby, flour. It thickens at around 125 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas flour starts working at 140 degrees F. You can add it in the last couple minutes of cooking and, unlike flour, it thickens almost instantly – no need to waste time cooking it with a fat first.
1 Pulse 2 tablespoons of granulated tapioca in a coffee grinder until ultra-fine for every cup of gravy you want to cook, and reserve it in a sealable food storage container or bag. You get a smoother consistency if you pulverize the granulated tapioca before adding it to gravy.
2 Pour the stock or broth in a pan and place it over medium heat until simmering, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you're cooking a pan gravy, pour the liquid from the pan into another pan or container and skim the fat from it with a spoon. Return the liquid to the pan and place it over medium heat until it simmers. You might have to add stock or water if you're low on liquid.
3 Whisk together 1 tablespoon of granulated tapioca and 1 tablespoon of cold water in a bowl for every cup of stock or broth used for the gravy. The slurry will have a pasty consistency when mixed thoroughly.
4 Pour the tapioca slurry in the simmering broth or stock while whisking. Whisk the slurry until incorporated and allow the gravy to return to a simmer.
5 Taste the gravy to see if you detect a granular, starchy feeling near the back of your tongue. If you do, simmer the gravy for about three or four minutes, whisking occasionally. If the gravy has a velvety mouthfeel with no lingering starchy taste, adjust the seasoning as needed with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve.