You're in a 24x7 diner and you order the roast beef dinner. You get a ridiculous bread roll, pad of cold butter, slab of overcooked, dry beef, decent mashed potatoes, a canned veggie side like corn, and the whole thing is drowned in a delicious, thick brown gravy that makes it all worthwhile. Best eaten either after midnight or after a bender, by the way :-)
I'm a pretty accomplished home-chef but I have no idea how they get it so thick and tasty. Cornstarch? Doesn't seem to have that slimy texture. Roux? Maybe, but I don't detect it. Demi glace? Seems like too much work for a diner, especially considering how much they give you.
Any thoughts on how they do that? Should this be considered a guilty pleasure?
What do you mean by not detecting a roux? When I think of gravy it is nearly always thickened with a roux. It may not be the heavily browned one associated with gumbo, but it still starts with flour cooked for a bit with fat of some sort.
I don't think of a corn starch thickened sauce as slimy, but it is semi transparent and glossy, in contrast to the opaqueness of a flour thickened one.
I agree that canned beef broth is the likely liquid base. Restaurants also use a commercially made 'beef base', a thick paste alternative to bouillon cubes. Better-than-bouillon is the brand that is sold in regular groceries, though Sams and Costco sell larger containers.
ROFL!!!! ok, sorry, I am recovered now...but the idea that a place that is *so* bad otherwise, and then would do a Demi glace really just made me laugh. I think they use canned gravy, just ask. And anyplace I find that has a gravy I like ...I bypass anyother order but "wets" i.e. french fries with gravy.
I use a roux...I know it is not chowish but one ingredient that gives zing is: ketchup. I also season with Tony Chachere's Cajun spice mix.
flour and pan-drippings or rendered fat, most will do in a pinch (this is why we save our rendered fats! - ok, I'll save that for my guest appearance on Romper Room), cornstarch can give it a ...flat? or even bitter taste.
mix and can should not be be discounted out of hand if you don't care about the salt content.