Many cooks shy away from making gravy from scratch because they are afraid of lumps. However, good flavor can trump uneven consistency. Besides, in the time it takes to open a can or packet and heat and prepare it, you can make your own. Even as a seasoned cook, you might find an idea or two among the many flavors of gravy.
Basic recipe. Any gravy recipe begins with the meat or poultry drippings. Start with equal amounts of cornstarch or flour and juices. Combine in a pot over medium heat with no more than one quarter cup of liquid to make a thin paste. To this paste, add your liquid slowly, blending it with a wire whisk. As a rule of thumb, one tablespoon of drippings makes one cup of gravy.
Adding flavors with liquids. While you can use water, adding milk, cream, canned cream soup, broth or stock will add instant, extra flavor to gravy. The latter two work especially well with beef gravy, while the former enhance any kind of poultry gravy with flavor and texture. If you are serving adults, you can also add a splash of wine: red for dark gravy and white for light gravy.
Adding flavors with sauces. A drop of TabascoR sauce is many a chef's secret for adding flavor instead of salt. Other sauces you can use include soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce.
Herbs and seasoning. Basic American cuisine uses only salt and pepper. However, the supermarket aisles are full of herbs and spices that satisfy a large variety of taste buds. You can't go wrong, and choices only depend on individual tastes. However, a few seasonings work especially well in gravies. These include garlic powder, tarragon, turmeric, marjoram, thyme, sage, oregano and nutmeg. As a rule of thumb, use the lighter seasonings for poultry gravy and stronger spices for beef gravy.
You can also add a bay leaf or two during the cooking process. Just remember to remove them before serving.
Adding texture with flavor. Add sauteed onions, garlic, peppers or mushrooms to take gravy to another flavor level. These additions might make lumps less noticeable, as well.