Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Scoop On Gravy

Wow, folks are in an uproar about gravy this year. Long time Ina fans are appalled that she’s making gravy in advance, with chicken stock and NO turkey drippings. Okay, maybe that’s mostly me, but a few others aren’t happy either.

Making gravy from scratch on Thanksgiving isn’t easy, but it is sooo much better than the alternative. The one pass I’ll give is to the guy I mentioned the other day who actually roasts turkey parts in order to get what he needs, makes the gravy from that and freezes it.

This is the long of it:

For 3 days before Thanksgiving, I gather up all my onion, carrot, celery and parsley bits and pieces and bag them up and put them in the fridge. First thing Thursday morning, I take out all that stuff and put it in a stock pot with tons of water and peppercorns and a bay leaf or two.

When I clean out the turkey, I add the turkey neck and giblets to the stock pot. That simmers on the back of the stove all day. That will become my stock for the gravy and any other thing I need it for.

I roast the turkey…more about that in another post. When the turkey is done, I remove it from the roasting pan, place it upside down (yup, that’s what I said) on a cutting board with a trough and cover it with foil. Everything that’s left in the pan – veggies, stock, wine, whatever - gets strained into a measuring pitcher.

Here’s what you need to remember:
3 tablespoons fat
¼ cup flour
up to 4 cups of liquid, usually 1 cup of white wine and 3 cups of stock

After I strain all the roasting pan stuff into the measuring pitcher, I spoon off the top 3 tablespoons of fat and put that into the saucepan I’m making the gravy in.

This is where I do things a little differently than most people. I keep all the stuff that’s left in the measuring pitcher, which will be partially fat, and I count that as part of my 4 cups of liquid. In other words, I don’t stand there trying to get all the fat off the remaining drippings. I use it ALL.

So now I’ve measured 3 tablespoons of fat into a saucepan over medium heat. I stir in the flour, turn the heat to low and cook it for at least 3 minutes, stirring all the time. Get it as brown as you dare. I normally give up a little too early. Then I whisk in 3 cups of stock, fairly vigorously.

At some point, I add one cup of white wine to the roasting pan (after the turkey is out of it) and stir over medium high heat. I get all the good stuff up and strain that into the gravy.

Now what can go wrong? Lots. You can have a lumpy mess at any point, but this is an easy problem to solve. After you've added the stock and cooked it for a bit, have a strainer and a bowl ready. Strain the gravy, pushing all the flour bits through and you’ll be left with a nice smooth texture. Add it back to the rinsed out saucepan and keep simmering. NOTE: You may not need to add all the stock. It depends how thick you want your gravy and how much time you have to keep reducing it. 

Continue simmering, stirring and tasting for seasoning. I always sneak in some Gravy Master to help with my usually not dark enough roux.

I may turn off the gravy and just leave it there, but usually I leave it on low and stir every once in a while. Sometimes, a skin forms on the top and then I just skim it off. I may add that tablespoon of brandy that Ina talked about. That couldn’t be a bad thing.

If the gravy is too thin, keep simmering to reduce it. You could always add a bit of cream before reducing it. Too thick? Add more stock.

One more thing, I usually multiply the recipe by four and I must say, I've never run out of gravy.
This is the short of it:
Gravy Recipe (makes 4 cups)
(This is basically an adapted version of Julia’s recipe)

3 tablespoons fat, skimmed from the drippings
¼ cup flour
up to 3 cups stock, hot is best, but don't worry about it
1 cup white wine
optional for cheaters like me: Gravy Master

Spoon fat into large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook for 3 minutes on low heat, stirring constantly. Cook until roux is brown.

Start adding stock, and keep whisking. Stir 2 1/2 cups of the stock and bring to a boil. Keep whisking. If you have a lot of lumps (much of the time I do), strain mixture into large bowl and return to rinsed out saucepan. 
NOTE: You may not need to add all the stock. It depends how thick you want your gravy and how much time you have to keep reducing it. 

After the turkey comes out of the oven, let it rest upside down covered with foil on a cutting board with trough. Add one cup of white wine to turkey-less roasting pan. Bring to the boil and stir, getting all those little bits up. Strain into gravy.

Continue simmering until the gravy is the consistency you desire, adding more stock if you've kept any aside. Add Gravy Master to improve the color if necessary. Taste for seasoning (all along). Keep warm over low heat.


Ramya Vijaykumar said...

Never tried using flour this yr thanksgiving I have this recipe to try...

Nikki said...

Gravy Master? Oh HELL to the no. I can't even expound upon that. Mister Man took the time to roast & measure & carefully love his gravy into submission, and then breaks out the Gravy Master? Nu uh, partner. Credibility has been lost.

Sue said...

Hi Ramya,
Please let me know how it comes out.

Hey Nikki,
Let's you and me take this outside to the woodshed...

You do put it so well when you say that I coddle my gravy until I get it just where I want it. But I'm just being honest when I say that in the maelstrom that is Thanksgiving, I often don't have the patience to stir my roux to a nutty brownness. The gravy master is strictly for color. I promise you the Gravy King (or Queen) would never even know it's there.

DebCarol said...

Wow . . . a Gravy Master smackdown. I'll stay tuned for this. I want pictures.

Sue said...

I'M READY!!! If Nikki want to bust my chops about using Gravy Master, then I'll just have to...well, I'm not exactly yet WHAT I have to do. She scares me a little bit...

Just remember, Fight Club isn't about words...I'm not really sure what that has to do with anything, but it sounded tough.

Tom said...

I have to admit, I've never heard of Gravy Master. But I used to work in food product development, so I had access to barrels of something called caramel coloring, which does lovely things to food that needs to be a deep brown color.

I have tried making gravy all sorts of ways, including roasting turkey legs and wings ahead and using them in stock and for gravy. I've also found that cornstarch is a bit better for thickening gravy and giving it a silky texture. But in my opinion the easiest thing to do is to puree all the vegetables you roast in the pan with the turkey, and even add a potato to the mix, so that it thickens without adding flour or cornstarch. It looks a little more rustic, and it may not have the shiny brown color, but it sure is tasty!


Emily said...

Wow, I forgot what I was going to say when I read the Gravy Master smackdown comments.

I support Gravy Master.

I support gravy, in general. It's quite delicious. I love a big pool in my mashed potatoes.