Eighteen days and counting when the most important food event of the year comes to your dinner table. And gravy is the centerpiece of Thanksgiving. You can roast the turkey to a Norman Rockwell brown, brine the bird with mystic spices, smoke it on the grill or make it Southern fried, but if your gravy’s not good, the translation is lost.
Turkey needs great, lump-free gravy as do the dressing and the mashed potatoes, and all the other stuff on that overloaded holiday plate. The gravy sneaks around the plate with its rivers and tributaries of goodness adding an extra note to all of your holiday favorites.
Gravy cannot be from a can, jar or a powdered mix.
Homemade gravy is easy to make and a far better friend to your food than the aforementioned stuff. Every year I get more questions about gravy making than about cooking the bird.
There is one truth to gravy – the roux and the liquid have to be at opposite temperatures. And don’t worry about that roux word. We’re not making gumbo that takes a long-cooking dark brown roux. Roux is nothing but flour and fat. It does help if you use gravy flour or cake flour, because both are milled very fine.
I’ve included two recipes, one with roasted turkey drippings and the other without. I grew up on giblet gravy and truly love it, but if the giblet part is worrisome, just leave them out (you don’t know what you’re missing). The second recipe is also good for the grilled and fried turkeys where pan juices don’t happen. When I roast the bird, which I do most often, I always make both gravies. Heck, you have to do something until the bird gets cool enough to carve.
Y’all have a good Thanksgiving. Now, how many days till Christmas?
MELT 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan, and whisk in 4 tablespoons of gravy flour the day before you plan to serve the gravy. Cook for a few minutes, remove, cool and reserve in the refrigerator.
POUR off the juices from the turkey-roasting pan, and remove most of the fat. Add a tablespoon or so of the fat back into the roasting pan.
PLACE the pan over two burners at medium high heat, throw in a finely chopped shallot, and pour 1 cup or so of turkey or chicken broth or wine (brandy, cider, cognac), into the pan and scrape up the “browned bits.” Then add the reserved pan juices, cook for a couple of minutes and strain into a measuring cup.
ADD enough turkey broth to have 4 cups of liquid, and pour into a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, and whisk in the cold roux you made yesterday. Cook over medium high heat until the thickness is to your liking. Add more liquid if it gets too thick.Yield: 8-10 servings Mom’s Old-Fashioned Giblet Gravy From Fred Thompson, the Weekend Gourmet. 1 1/2 quarts of water or chicken stock The giblets, including the neck, from the turkey 1 carrot, chopped into thirds 1 rib celery, chopped into thirds 1/4 onion, unpeeled 2 branches of fresh thyme 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 3 tablespoons gravy flour 2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and finely chopped 1/4 cup heavy cream Freshly ground black pepper to taste Kosher salt to taste
PLACE the water, giblets, carrot, celery, onion and thyme in a 3-quart saucepan the day before serving. Bring to a simmer, and cook for one hour. Remove the giblets, and let cool slightly.
STRAIN the broth and reserve in the refrigerator. Finely chop the giblets and pull the meat from the neck. I find that a fork works well for this. Chop that meat. Refrigerate.
TO make the gravy, melt the butter in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook the roux for a few minutes to get out the starch taste. You want this roux to be “blond” in color.
ADD the reserved broth, whisking. Increase the heat to medium high, and stir in the giblets and the chopped egg. Add the cream and taste for seasoning. but add salt and pepper to taste gradually, now is not the time to get the gravy too salty. Cook, stirring, until thickened; it probably won’t need to cook much. Thin with chicken broth or more cream if needed.
SERVE WITH: Your holiday feast and all its trimmings.
TO DRINK: A nice zinfandel or Riesling.Yield: 8-10 servings