Jus versus gravy
A jus is a thin sort of sauce, and like gravy, it is made from pan drippings or sediment remaining in the tin after roasting a chicken or piece of meat, but unlike gravy, it is not thickened with flour.
While roasting chicken or meat you want to encourage bits and bobs to brown and turn sticky because the sort of goo that forms is the basis of a good jus or gravy and equals flavour and colour. For some reason a colourless jus or pale gravy never looks so appealing, (maybe because they usually taste insipid).
It’s important not to let the browning bits catch and burn during roasting though, because no matter what you do thereafter, the jus or gravy will taste burnt. If the go starts to darken too much, scrape up dark bits with a metal spoon and remove.
When French roasting a chicken, ideally keep a little stock in the roasting tin at all times to keep the chicken moist and to prevent scorching, but towards the end of cooking, don’t have so much stock in the tin that the chicken is sitting in a liquid bath, or the sticky goo won’t form. Stir any sticky goo that forms into the juices to ensure it doesn’t catch and burn.
After roasting chicken or meat the remaining pan juices will most likely be oily, and while an emulsion can form by boiling hard with wine or stock, most of us prefer to scoop off excess fat first. Tilt the tin and use a metal spoon to scoop off fat, then set the tin over an element and heat gently – this is important because if the tin is piping hot, the deglazing liquid will evaporate in a flash (if this happens, cool the tin and add more wine, verjuice, stock to deglaze the tin).
Pour in ½ cup of white wine, verjuice or stock. Stir with a metal spoon and lift up any sticky residue and stir it into the bubbling liquid. Bubble up for a few minutes (see notes below about verjuice), check the seasoning, then it’s ready to go. You can add a little more stock to the juices at this point to make them go further (bubble up and taste again for seasoning). Once the jus is ready, spoon it immediately over carved or sliced meats. If you leave jus in the roasting tin it can form a skin, and if there is not that much of it, you will find there is even less after reheating it again; it should be used piping hot.
I’ll just take you back to the start … If there is a lot of liquid in the roasting tin, it can be poured off into a bowl or jug and skimmed of fat or poured into a fat separating jug, then added to the tin after is has been deglazed. Bubble away for several minutes to heat and amalgamate and check for seasoning.
And did you notice how I recommend using a metal spoon rather than a wooden one? That’s because a metal spoon can scrape the bottom of tin and lift up all the sticky bits more effectively than a wooden spoon which tends to glide over them.
For a roast chicken there is no happier marriage than verjuice (typically made from unfermented green grapes). It’s easier to use than wine because you don’t have to boil away the alcohol – just splash it in, bubble it up and away you go. You can turn this into a gorgeous creamy richly flavoured sauce by adding fresh tarragon leaves in summer or thyme leaves in winter and a generous dollop of crème fraiche. It’s lip-smackingly good! Read about Verjuice