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January 19, 2010

Making the "Gravy"

A simple sauce makes for a more sophisticated dish

Slurry Ingredients

The HSUS

This week’s recipe for Tuscan Tofurky Sausage Sauté over Bow Tie Pasta calls for a slurry, something that may not be familiar to every cook.

While “slurry” doesn’t sound very appealing, it’s a great cooking trick to learn—and an easy way to make a simple sauce. 

To start, dissolve the cornstarch in the water. It’s important to do this as a separate step: if the cornstarch is added directly to the hot stock it will clump.

To make a smooth, clump-free sauce, add the liquid (slurry) to the stock and stir until it thickens. Cornstarch doesn’t require any cooking (unlike flour) and once the sauce thickens, it is done and can be removed from the heat.

This “trick” of thickening a liquid with a little starch to make a sauce can be applied in countless ways. If cornstarch isn’t your favorite ingredient, try one of these other thickeners:

Arrowroot powder—Derived from the root of a tropical plant, arrowroot is high in calcium. When substituting for cornstarch, use one tablespoon arrowroot for 2 ¼ teaspoons cornstarch. Arrowroot can be found in most natural food stores and some supermarkets.

Kudzu—You may know kudzu as a noxious weed that grows in the South. (It was introduced to control soil erosion and ended up choking out native plants.) But kudzu is a great thickener that enhances the flavor of sauces, desserts, and soups. As it cools, a kudzu-thickened sauce will thicken further. Substitute 1:1 for cornstarch. Kudzu is generally found only in health food stores, in the Japanese section.

Information about cornstarch alternatives found in “The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia” by Rebecca Wood.

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