Gravy, the Thanksgiving Wild Card
For years, gravy has been the bane of my Thanksgivings. There is always so much to do when you are trying to get Thanksgiving dinner on the table. Making gravy at the last minute was always stressful. For many years I put my mom or my sister in charge of the gravy, which helped tremendously, but there were often gravy snafus where we would end up with yucky inedible gravy or worse, no gravy at all.
What? No Gravy????
If there is one thing I have learned about serving Thanksgiving dinner for more than 35 years is you gotta have gravy or be prepared for a minor revolt. No matter how wonderful everything else is, if you don't have a good gravy you will get complaints. So this year I was determined to have a no-stress, gravy-secure Thanksgiving. The solution is to make your gravy in advance and freeze it.
The Make-Ahead Solution
Make ahead-gravy takes a little time, but most of that time is inactive. You can make it in one day, but I prefer to make gravy a two-day process. You make the stock the first day, refrigerate it, make the gravy the second day and then pack it up in the freezer until Thanksgiving day. You can make your gravy a day before Thanksgiving or a month before. Either way making your gravy ahead of time will make serving Thanksgiving dinner so much easier and more enjoyable.
This Recipe Makes a Lot of GravyThis recipe makes a lot of gravy. I served 40 people with it and no one complained that we ran out. Leftovers can be saved and frozen for a future use or you can cut quantities back. The basic formula is approximately 1 cup stock to 2 T flour to 2 T fat. I added an extra cup of liquid to this recipe.
Yield About 6 cups
Make ahead-gravy takes a little time, but most of that time is inactive. You can make it in one day, but I prefer to make it a two-day process. You make the stock the first day, refrigerate it and make the gravy the second day. You can do this a day before Thanksgiving or a month before. Either way making your gravy ahead of time will make serving Thanksgiving dinner so much easier and more enjoyable.
3 /2 pounds turkey wings and drumsticks
2 T olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
½ cup dry white wine, red wine, madeira, sherry or 1/3 cup bourbon
4 carrots, unpeeled and cut into 3” pieces
2 onions, peeled and quartered
6 celery stalks, cleaned and cut into 4” pieces including the leaves
A handful of herbs such as parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme (just like the song)
4 bay leaves
1 T whole peppercorns
4 quarts water
2/3 cup fat (combination of rendered fat from the stock and butter)
2/3 cup flour
Optional flavorings include: soy sauce, fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, roasted garlic, sauteed and finely minced mushrooms
- Heat oven to 375 degrees. Rub the turkey parts with olive oil and season with kosher salt and pepper. Roast for one hour. Remove the turkey from the roasting pan and set it aside to cool.
- Put the roasting pan on the stovetop and turn the heat on to medium heat to heat up the fat. When the fat is hot add ½ cup white wine to deglaze and release the bits of fond stuck on the bottom of the pan, scraping the pan to release the bits and pieces. When all the bits are released, set the pan aside and reserve this liquid.
- Remove half the meat from the bones and save it for sandwiches, Turkey Lettuce Wraps or Roasted Cobb Salad.
- Put the bones with remaining meat attached and the deglazed liquid from the roasting pan in a large stockpot. Add carrots, onions, celery, parsley, bay leaves and peppercorns to the pot. Add 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for three hours, partially covered.
- Set a mesh colander inside a large bowl and strain the stock through, pushing down on the meat, bones and veggies in the pot, to capture as much stock as possible. Transfer the stock to a refrigerator container, cover and refrigerate the stock overnight. Refrigerating the stock allows the fat to rise to the top of the container and solidify so it can be easily removed the next day.
- The next day skim the fat off the top of the stock and reserve it to make the gravy. You will notice the stock has a jellied consistency. This is exactly what it should look like and will give your gravy great flavor. The jellied stock results when the connective tissues break down and releases collagen. As you heat the stock it will liquify.
- Warm 7 cups of stock in a pan until hot, but not boiling. In a separate, heavy bottomed pan, such as a Dutch oven, make a roux by cooking fat and flour together. Measure out the fat you scraped from the stock and add unsalted butter until you have 3/4 cup combined fat. Add the fat to the Dutch oven and heat over medium heat until it bubbles. Turn down the heat to medium-low and using a wire whisk, gradually whisk in the flour, whisking continually until it starts to brown, about 2 minutes.
- Slowly whisk the stock into the fat and flour mixture. Start by adding a half cup of stock and whisking until smooth. Add the remaining stock, one cup at a time until, whisking after each addition until all the stock is absorbed and the gravy is smooth and not lumpy.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook until the gravy thickens, about 15 minutes. The gravy will thicken more after it cools. Season with salt and pepper and optional seasonings of choice to taste. Allow to cool to room temperature, place in a freezer container, cover and freeze until Thanksgiving.
- Thaw and heat 30 minutes before serving Thanksgiving dinner. Collect any juices from the turkey and stir into the gravy.
- You can season with optional flavorings as listed above if you wish.
- Here is a clever trick I learned from a make-ahead gravy recipe on Kitchn. Don't discard the turkey and veggie contents of the colander. Instead, use the leftover bones, meat and veggies to make another batch of stock. It won't be as luscious as the first batch, but it will be darned good and can be used to make soup at a later time. I use my slow cooker to make this second batch of stock. Add the bones, meat and veggies to the slow cooker, fill with water and cook on high for half an hour, reduce to low and cook overnight. Strain the second stock like you did the first and freeze for another use.
- You can greatly simplify this Make-Ahead gravy if you choose to use canned chicken stock. It will definitely work, but it won't be as good. Just saying!
Cuisine Traditional American