"Gravy" or "sauce"?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by mezzaluna, Aug 15, 2002.

  1. mezzaluna

    mezzaluna

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    I was watching an episode of Cooking Live while I was on the treadmill today. Sara Moulton had a guest with her who had won a competition for what I would call ragu: tomato-meat sauce with meats cooked in it for a long time. There was a spirited discussion about whether to call the concoction "gravy" or "sauce". Several people, including the prize-winner, call it gravy if there is meat in it; otherwise, it's "sauce". One caller said it was a regional name, but no one was sure.

    I lived for 18 years in a town with a large Italian population, and never heard them say it was gravy. What's with the use of the term "gravy" for a tomato-based sauce with meat?
     
  2. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    In my readings, gravies are a subset of sauce. In general they seem to be a quick sauce involving the pan drippings but without much reduction and no skimming. Often a "rustic" and unrefined sauce relying on a starch thickener.

    As few tomato sauces are made in the gravy style that does seem odd.

    The meat issue is a new one to me.

    Phil
     
  3. leo r.

    leo r.

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    Mezzaluna,i`m interested in this item you have mentioned.My initial training,years ago,was in classical French cooking.
    There were some Italian dishes on the course.To me,the sauce you describe sounds like a variation of Provencale sauce.The only tomato flavoured gravy i can think of is a jus-lie,which is slightly thickened.Maybe i`m getting old and forgetful,but i certainly would not see this item as a gravy.I`ve made more gravy than i care to think about!Some people here in Britain nearly drink the stuff!Leo.
    :chef:
     
  4. mudbug

    mudbug

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    According to the Epicurious.com Dictionary which is based on the Food Lover's Companion all gravy is a sauce but not all sauces are a gravy.
     
  5. leo r.

    leo r.

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    Cchiu,it`s not just Antonin Careme who refined sauces.Don`t forget Auguste Escoffier,who at the turn of the last century was in charge of the Savoy hotel on London.Escoffier was once described as "The king of chefs and the chef of kings".
    His sous chef,Jean Saulnier,compiled the Repetoire de la Cuisine,based on Escoffier`s recipes,which is still used today for references purposes.Apparently,Ceasar Ritz was the general manager there at the time.Leo.
     
  6. chefgbs

    chefgbs

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    My mother is an off-the-boat Italian and I once asked her if she called it sauce or gravy. She told me that it was gravy if the tomato "sauce" was cooked with meat. Marinara, which is meatless, is referred to as a sauce.
     
  7. mudbug

    mudbug

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    Hi Leo,

    The above definitions are quotes. Thanks for sharing the additional information.

    :)
     
  8. kimmie

    kimmie

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    Classic alla Bolognese (the one typically served with tagliatelle) is referred to as meat-based ragù in many italian cookbooks.

    The Americanized versions of Bolognese, or even the Canadianized versions for that matter, are much thinner, making them perfect with spaghetti.

    Just my two cents...:rolleyes:
     
  9. marmalady

    marmalady

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    The use of the word 'gravy' to mean a meat based red sauce seems to have originated with the New York Italian Americans (Correct me if I'm wrong!), who used the word to mean a long cooked, meat based tomato sauce, usually served on Sundays or special occasions. I've heard it referred to as 'Sunday gravy'. Perhaps Pongi can find an Italian 'root' recipe where it originated! Probably the abundance of meat here in the States as opposed to what was available in Italy, gave them the luxury of using all the different meats in this dish.

    This is from 'The North End Italian Cookbook', by Marguerite Dimino Buonopane:

    1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
    2 lbs. meatballs, made up but not cooked
    4-5 lean pork chops
    1 lb. lean spareribs
    1 lb. piece of beef or pork
    1/2 cup olive oil
    1 med. onion, chopped
    1 garlic clove, chopped
    pinch of dried basil, red pepper flakes, oregano, and mint
    1 6-oz. can tomato paste
    1 28-oz. can peeled, crushed tomatoes
    1 28-oz. can water
    salt/pepper

    Brown the meats in 1/4 cup oil in a heavy saucepan, and transfer them to a platter. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of oil to the juices in the pan; when teh oil is hot, saute onion, garlic, and seasonings til transparent. Stir in tomato paste and blend well. Add tomatoes and stir til blended; stir in an extra 'pinch' of the seasonings. Add water til the sauce remains the thickness you desire.

    Let the sauce come to a full boil, add salt/pepper and more herbs. Return the meat tot he pan, simmer over medium heat, uncovered, for at least 1 hour or til all the meat is fully cooked and fork tender. Stir gently every 15 minutes or so, to prevent the bottom burning.

    Remove the meat from the sauce and place on a platter, cut in serving size portions. Skim the excess oil off the top of the 'gravy'. Serve the 'gravy' over your pasta of choice.

    I learned a version of this when I lived in the 'Little Italy' section of Cambridge, Mass, way way back in the 60's :D . The only addition was a piece of pepperoni, cut in bite size chunks, that was cooked along with the rest of the meat; it added a wonderful flavor to the sauce!
     
  10. kimmie

    kimmie

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    WOW! That recipe really sounds worthy of a Holiday feast, Marmalady.

    Would you mind telling us the name of that recipe?
     
  11. chiffonade

    chiffonade

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    Gravy = Ragu. Usually somewhat long cooked, replete with meats and extremely rich in flavor. Courses can consist of an antipasto, pasta, and the meat served as its own course.

    Referring to a ragu as gravy is a colloquial term used by many of my fellow (past and present) Brooklynites. We had "gravy" every Sunday with various types of pasta. Husband is from the west and thought I was going to serve a pot of brown stuff when I said I was making him "gravy" for the first time.

    Heck, can you blame us for not wanting to call it Ragu?
     
  12. w.debord

    w.debord

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    Mezzaluna, I saw that episode too, awhile ago. MAN OH MAN you HAVE to make her gravy. I printed it off the foodtv site and have been making hers' ever since. IT'S A WONDERUL RECIPE, no wonder why she won! I think she mentioned publishing a cookbook on her own, I'd buy it.

    Her meatballs are perfect. And the technique makes wonderful sense, cooks them just right.....

    She calls it gravy and I'm not about to argue with her knowledge on the topic.
     
  13. mezzaluna

    mezzaluna

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    Thanks, Wendy, I will!
     
  14. marmalady

    marmalady

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    Kimmie - It's 'Sunday Gravy' - of course!

    Chif - Thanks for the back up! I knew I'd hear from a native NY'er!
     
  15. pongi

    pongi

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    It's very hard for me to have an opinion about this question, firstly because I'm not familiar enough with the American culinary therminology, and secondly because the corresponding Italian terms of the words you mentioned actually have a different meaning.
    A "salsa" (Italian word) is NOT just a "sauce". Our use of this term is more restricted and, independently from the ingredients, indicates something homogeneous and smooth, lacking solid parts. In example, a "tomato sauce" are tomatoes, cooked or not, with or without other ingredients, processed or pushed through a sieve to a cream.
    If the "sauce" contains pieces of anything, it's a "Sugo". So, your "meat sauce" in Italian is "Sugo di Carne"..or "Ragù di carne", a term which language purists hate as it has been stolen from French with a wrong meaning (a "Ragout" in Italian is a "Spezzatino") but which is extensively used.

    But..what do we Italians mean with the word "Ragù di carne"?
    ANY pasta sauce made of meat, tomato and vegetables, independently from the cooking time (which, in any case, must be quite long) and the size of the meat pieces...I mean that "Ragù" is the Bolognese one, where the meat is minced, but ALSO the Ragù Napoletano and the "Tocco" Genovese, where a whole piece of meat is browned in oil and then cooked in tomato sauce with its gravy for many hours, after which you serve the "sauce" with pasta and the meat, sliced, as a main course (as you know, pasta in Italy is not considered a main course but a starter).
    So, the recipe mentioned by Marmalady is a real Italian one, although our versions are usually less rich in different meat types.

    So, maybe I'm wrong but if you say "Gravy" I think to something without tomato and not to a "Ragù", a word that personally I'd translate with "Meat Sauce"...

    Pongi
     
  16. rachel

    rachel

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    Sometimes with food i think that there can be a a lot of problems caused by 'translation' of food. In the Uk gravy is a meat based sauce used to pour over meat, mostly roast meat such as chicken, Lamb, pork etc,etc. Tomato would be in the gravy if it had been used while cooking the meat. Anything with pasta isn't gravy but sauce. My own opinion (based on my limited knowledge of languages other than English, rather than culinary abilities) is that once a 'foreign' food is used in a country, the descriptions for it will never be adequate, and sometimes it's best not to worry about it.
    I have just sat and watched a TV programme where a respected chef (who is magnificent with food) made a 'paella' in a flat pan which he continually stirred. What he made was lovely but it wasn't paella as they are NEVER stirred. Again the language that we have in English fails us, or Rick Stein made a Cornish Paella. ;)
     
  17. rachel

    rachel

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    P.S. In Spanish Spanish (as opposed to Mexican Spanish, which I know nothing about ) everything that 'runs' is sasla. Chicken curry is 'chicken in curry salsa', anything with pasta is 'salsa'. Any kind of meat with what I would call gravy on it is 'salsa' in Spanish - a failing of the language in my opinion, but then in English we have a lot of failings too.
     
  18. marmalady

    marmalady

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    Rachael, in the States in general, the word 'gravy' is indeed used to mean a 'meat-based sauce' served over meat, and potatoes or bread. It's only the Italian-Americans who came to America who dubbed the meat/tomato sauce 'gravy'!
     
  19. leo r.

    leo r.

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    Rachel,i`ve seen the programme where Rick Stein made "paella".First he made his version of lobster stock,which contained saffron.Then he added squid,lobster meat,prawns,i`m not sure if they were Langoustine and monkfish.
    He used Arborio rice,i wondered why,like you,did he stir it so many times?:confused:
    I would like to know where he got his recipe from?Leo.:chef:
     
  20. rachel

    rachel

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    His head??? (or another part of his anatomy?) certainly not anywhere in Spain. But i would use arboro rice or any kind of risotto rice for paella as the Spaniards always use short grain rice. The only time I've seen paella with long grain rice is in tourist traps.