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Bread Pre-ferments

Jus'ed Cause

What is the difference between au jus and gravy?

-- Overheard in a restaurant

This just heard.  Homer Simpson, "Mmm, jus!  Not quite gravy, not quite blood."  Well, not really, but it made me smile.

The short answer is, "Probably the size of the bill."  With the trend to call simple things by fancy names, many restaurants are serving gravies, sometimes even those that come in powdered form, as jus.  After all, who wants fries and gravy when you can have "pomme frite au jus "?

The French cooking term "jus" (pronounced Zhoo) simply refers to a juice, or gravy, made from pan drippings.  Food that is served with jus is said to be "au jus" (O Zhoo).  A simple jus is made by adding vegetables to the roasting pan, either about a half hour before the roast is finished or on the stove top after the excess fat has been drained off.  Whichever way it is done, the vegetables are cooked until they have browned.  Then water or stock is added to the pan.  The liquid is boiled and the pan scraped with a wooden spoon until all of the brown bits, called the "fond", are loosened from the pan and dissolved into the liquid.

If the liquid is then strained and served as is, it is called jus.  If it is thickened first, usually with arrowroot or cornstarch dissolved in some water, then it is a "jus lié" (Zhoo lee-AY).

Pan gravies are made pretty much the same way, except that they are frequently thickened with flour, either dissolved in water or added to the vegetables at the end of the browning to make a roux.  A pan gravy is usually a bit thicker than a jus.

One final nerve jangling note:  its bad enough that restaurants are calling their gravy "jus", but sometimes you will see something like "beef dip with au jus".  Since the word "au" means "with" in this context, they are saying "beef dip with with gravy".  If they are going to be pretentious, at least they should bother to learn what they are saying!

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