Monday, November 21, 2011

Please Pass The Gravy!

A savory and delicious gravy begins long before the bird is cooked. The day before Thanksgiving when I unwrap the bird to bathe it in brine--see To B or not to B (Brine, that is) below--I set aside the neck, heart and gizzard in a 2 quart saucepan to make stock for my gravy (I don't put the liver into the stock as I think the flavor is so strong that it will be overwhelming. Our cats think this is a fine idea because I roast it as a special treat for them!) To give the stock a head start in the flavor department, I cover the turkey parts with a can of low sodium turkey broth, then add a large onion, cut in half, a stalk or two of celery, broken in half, a handful of carrots, a teapoon of peppercorns, and a teaspoon or two of poultry seasoning. I bring it slowly to a simmer over very low heat. Starting with room temperature broth and taking the time to bring it slowly up to a simmer extracts full flavor from all the ingredients. Once it begins to bubble, I skim any foam that may have formed on the top and allow it to simmer, covered, for an hour or even two, if I have the time. Then I chill it overnight. 

On Thanksgiving day, I strain the stock through a sieve, pressing with a spatula on the veggies to be sure to squeeze all the liquid out, then set the stock aside. Once the turkey comes out of the oven and is resting, I pour the turkey drippings into my gravy separator to get rid of all the fat. I pour the defatted turkey drippings into my container blender and add the reserved stock that I made the day before. I add a tablespoon or two of flour to the blender. (The amount depends on how much total liquid I have in the blender....there are markings on the side of the container. The rule of thumb is one tablespoon of flour thickens one cup of liquid.) I blend it well, so there are no lumps, and pour the resulting mixture into the roasting pan. I put it over two burners on the stove top and heat it over medium heat, scraping the browned bits off the bottom and sides of the pan with a spoon or spatula, until it boils and is as thick as I like. I season to taste with salt and pepper and strain it into my gravy boat. Delicious and no lumps!

Notes & Pointers

Notice that I don't add salt until the very end. If the turkey has been brined, it's possible that the turkey drippings may already have enough salt in them. There's nothing worse than food that is too salty!

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