Here I am. T-minus 3 days until the family comes over for dinner. All three of them. Sometimes I wish an Italian family would invite me over for dinner. I'd bring a side dish and dessert. I'd love the noise and to experience having 20 plus people for a holiday dinner. So, where was I? As for me, I only need five place settings. Of course, that means lots of leftovers. That equates to no cooking for me, for a day...or two. For years, as soon as the turkey came out of the oven, I'd jump into making the gravy. It's a crazy time to do this, because all the other dishes are coming out of the oven, from the stove, and my guests are hungry. Finally, I read an article in a magazine about Make Ahead Gravy. Brilliant! I've been doing this for four years, and it's such a blessing. Trust me.
One of my dear coworkers lamented that she can't make gravy to save her life. I wonder why? Gravy is one of the easiest things to make. You just have to follow a few basic rules. For one, it's that "brown stuff" that sticks to the bottom of the roasting pan that has gives gravy such great flavor. In culinary terms, it's called fond. To me, it's gold. Next, you want a rich and flavorful stock, and fond is what makes it happen. Water doesn't cut it. Last, but just as important, you need to know how to thicken the gravy. This is where the lumpy gravy fear factor comes in. Oh, I've made plenty of lumpy gravy over the thirty plus Thanksgiving Dinner's I've made. 'Nuff said. Let's make turkey gravy:
First, we're going to make the turkey stock. I bought six turkey wings for less than $8.00. Place them in a roasting pan (or a Dutch Oven). Add a couple of onions, cut into chunks, and a few sticks of celery. You don't have to bother peeling the onions or garlic.
Roast the turkey wings in a 375F oven for about 2 hours.
It smells like Thanksgiving, already.
Add about 8 cups of water.
...add a couple of Bay Leaves.
I like adding peppercorns to my stock.
I love this mesh tea ball. Cheese cloth works fine. It just makes removing the peppercorns easier.
Bring to a boil...
...then simmer for at least an hour.
Remove the turkey wings and chunks of vegetables. My husband saves the turkey meat for our kitty. Isn't he sweet?
Strain the turkey stock, and refrigerate overnight (or at least for several hours.) If you really think about it, I just taught you how to make your own chicken or turkey stock. Rather than adding raw chicken, I always roast my meat first. I think it gives the stock a richer color and deeper flavor. So, it's time to make gravy!
TRUE STORY: Four Thanksgivings ago, I strained my turkey stock right into the sink. I shrieked, the moment I dumped it in. I was thinking "pasta". I wanted to cry. Lesson learned: always have that pot ready underneath the strainer.
There wasn't a lot of fat, which was a nice surprise. I used a large spoon to skim off the thin layer of fat.
This is the secret to silky and lump-free gravy, folks. First, have your tools ready. You need a whisk. Don't have one? Buy one! We're going to make a "roux", which is equal parts butter and equal parts milk. I use whole milk. Non-fat and low-fat is a no-no. I mean, really? It's gravy, people. It's a holiday, so enjoy and work out later. Yes, there's cognac in this shot. I wanted to make a batch of gravy with cognac in it, and another batch with a splash of apple cider vinegar. Measure out the flour and milk (6 Tablespoons flour, 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter) and 1/2 cup whole milk. Have the stock nearby, and start melting the butter. Get your whisk ready. Thank you to my husband, who took these "action" photos so I could make this gravy with both of my hands.
I used a non-stick large pot, to melt the butter on medium-high. While whisking, I began to add the flour-- don't dump it all at once. Just start pouring it in, while whisking. Yes, the theme is to WHISK the whole time. Don't stop! We're cooking that raw taste out of the flour.
Whisk, whisk, whisk... no lumps. Now, start adding the stock it. How much? Go easy. I add it one cup increments, and whisk, whisk, whisk. Keep the gravy just below boiling, and you can tell when it's thick. Leave room for milk...
I added one Tablespoon of Cognac to the first batch. The second batch I added 2 teaspoons of Apple Cider Vinegar. Now, add the whole milk and keep whisking.
TIP: So, you realize you added too much liquid and the gravy is too thin. Don't panic. Just don't fall apart and add flour straight into the thin gravy, or the lumps will come. I am speaking from experience, here. It's not pretty. Instead, you can mix about 1 Tablespoon of corn starch and whisk a little water into it, till it's lump free. Now, very slooooooooooowly, add the cornstarch and whisk while the gravy bubbles. Cornstarch works very fast, so go easy. If it's still not thick enough, then add some more. Oh. If you have Wondra instant flour, then you can carefully add that to gravy to thicken, but whisk like crazy. In the end, if there are still lumps, just strain the gravy through a fine mesh sieve.
You have to season the gravy. I use only coarse salt-- never table salt. I add salt in 1/4 teaspoon increments. Add. Taste. Add a pinch more. Taste. Are you double dipping the spoon? Tsk, tsk. I always use a handful of spoons. See? It's safe to eat my food. (Just ask my family what kind of germophobe I am. Ha!) Pepper is optional. I like adding it to my gravy. Leave it out, if you don't. So, there you have it, ladies and gentleman. Thick gravy, no lumps. Tastes good, too. I have two quarts of gravy and almost a quart of leftover turkey stock.
VERDICT: I asked my husband to taste each batch of gravy and choose his favorite. He liked the one with apple cider vinegar more than the one with brandy. I have to agree. The brandy was a good idea, but I was surprised that I liked the cider vinegar best. It's very subtle, but kicks up the flavor just a bit more. I thank the food blog "Noble Pig" for inspiring me with this ingredient that I would never have thought of.
So, the day has arrived to roast the turkey.
So, the day has arrived to roast the turkey.
...and whisk in the strained turkey drippings.
Now, that's what I'm talking about!
FINAL TIPS: Leave extra stock. When reheating gravy, you can use it to thin out the gravy if it's turned into concrete. You can freeze the gravy for weeks to come...or refrigerate it for a few days.
I'm telling you. Gravy is easy to make. Who needs packets? Really? That canned stuff? The ingredients scare me. C'mon, you can do it! If you do, and it works, I'd love to hear from you.
It's bedtime, folks. I'm cooking and blogging in real time. My Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes are all set to go. All I have left to make, tomorrow, are pie crusts and my cornbread stuffing (I baked the cornbread, from scratch, last night). I made my cranberry-orange relish two months ago, and canned them. Wednesday, I bake my sweet potatoes for my casserole and I think Thanksgiving Day will be a lot let stressful than it's ever been. For once, I want to be enjoying time with my family in my own living room.
As always, a printable recipe is at the bottom of this post.