by Tara Pederson

You know how we’re seeing and hearing a lot of recipes that start, “Well, you’ll have this in your cabinet”? Well I know you might NOT, but I will give you inspiration to keep a couple of these staples there from now on. Because let’s be real one of the best ways to improve so many things on our plates is to add gravy.
People talk about how intimidating the process of gravy making is. Or how out of this world the best gravy they’ve ever had is, or how easy it is to make but how they never make it. Or how bad is for them and you. I say fie on that! It is absolutely no worse than the ranch dressing you douse everything with, or the extra cheese you add, because- cheese.
And these days, what’s so wrong with the occasional small joy and comfort of the surprisingly versatile thing we call gravy?
Brown gravy
In a saucepan or skillet, melt 2 tbsp butter.
Add 2 tbsp flour and cook for 2 minutes,  whisking, until it starts to brown.  Add 1/2 cup room temperature or cold pan drippings from cooked meat OR prepared beef broth and whisk until it thickens. If you like, or don’t have other options, you can dissolve beef powder or bouillon in water to use.  But its texture sometimes is undesirably grainy.
Whisk in up to 1 1/2 cup more broth or water until desired consistency.  Add generous pinches of salt and pepper.  Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Adjust for seasonings and serve warm.
Got lumps anyway?  No worries- pour it through a mesh strainer before serving.
Want to make it red eye gravy instead?  Trade out 1/3-3/4 total volume of your broth or water for cooled,  brewed coffee. Adjust seasonings accordingly.
Tomato gravy
 In a skillet over medium high heat, cook 4-6 slices of bacon. Remove and allow to cool.
Whisk 3 tbsp flour into the warm bacon grease. Cook, stirring constantly, until the flour just starts to brown.  Slowly whisk in 1 1/3 cup water and stir until smooth.  Add 1 can undrained tomatoes plus salt and pepper to taste.
Cook until thickened – about 5 minutes, stirring very frequently. Add back in the chopped bacon.  Serve hot over biscuits, grits, etc.