Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Gravy Makes the Turkey -- Start Tonight

In my family there is a tradition through the generations that gravy is the measure of a meal and therefore the cook. The roast can be tough and the turkey dry, but good gravy can save the meal and all will be forgiven. Your turkey, whether it’s rolled, roasted whole or chopped up in pot pie, is going to need gravy, and good gravy is no more work than bad gravy. 

Good gravy starts with good stock, and good stock means that you either buy chicken or turkey stock at the grocery store or you make your own. Stock is the liquid extract of meat and vegetables that you can produce in your own kitchen with basic ingredients.
Basic stock ingredients:  onion, celery, and carrots. I add any clean vegetable trimmings such as onionskin, lettuce scraps, and broccoli trimmings. These are simmered in water with the bones of whatever type of stock you are making fish, beef, chicken, and in our case turkey.  

The process:  brown the bones in the oven for 30-60 minutes, then cover with water and add vegetables. Important! Save the fat that renders off the bones during browning. Portions are highly flexible, but for a our turkey, a couple of carrots, an onion, and three stocks of celery with a bit of parsley should be enough vegetables and three quarts of water. Bring the pot to a boil and then let it simmer slowly for 4-6 hours. I have good luck making stock with a pressure cooker in about thirty-five minutes. Add the vegetables, water and browned bones to the cooker.  Cover and cook 30 minutes after it comes to pressure. 
How ever you make stock, strain it and let it cool.  Then skim as much of the fat as you can.  If you are making your stock from the bones of your rolled turkey, all this is being done a day or two before the big day. Now you have some turkey fat and a couple quarts of stock.
Before you get started building the gravy, get it in your head that this is an art not a science.  Or as mother used to say,  “there is more than one way to skin a cat.” Gravy is meat stock or milk thickened with some form of starch, usually flour. We are going to make flour gravy with chicken stock. The flour is where most people get in trouble. The flour in gravy has to be cooked or the gravy will taste like uncooked flour, the proverbial wallpaper paste. That’s the source of most bad gravy; the other danger is lumps.  

Basic turkey Gravy

Remove the turkey from the roasting pan and pour off any liquid into a Pyrex pitcher or stock separator. Add about a cup of stock to the pan and put it on the range top to heat so you can loosen all those tasty morsels stuck to the bottom of the pan. Once this is bubbling and things are loose set this aside or pour it in a bowl or pitcher. Using the fat you saved from roasting bones or butter and put it in a saucepan to heat about one half cup. Measure about the same amount of flour into this fat and simmer for about five minutes to make a roux. You need to be whisking or stirring almost
The Fat off just the roasted bones about 1.5 cups
constantly.  Now, add the pan cleanings and about a quart of stock stirring and heating as you go. As this heats it will thicken. Add stock to thin it or cook it down if it’s too runny. I like to simmer my turkey gravy a while and work it hard with the whip.  If I run out of stock and my gravy is still too thick, add the water from steamed veggies, wine, or beer. I remember the first time I saw mom thin her gravy with the water off of the green beans, I was disgusted.  Then she explained that I had been gobbling gravy made that way all my life. The gravy will need some salt and pepper, and I strain mine because lumps can occur and because I lined my roasting pan with vegetables so at this stage the gravy has chunks of onion celery and carrot knocking around in the pan. 

Now, the other way to skin a cat.You can make good gravy without adding all the fat that is in the roux. You do this by making a slurry of flour and water and adding it to the turkey stock. Put a couple quarters of stock in a pot and start it heating. In a bowl mix a half cup of flour and a half cup of cold water and make some wallpaper paste. Mix it well and then stir it into the stock and keep that whisk moving.  You really want those pan drippings and vegetable piece from the roasting pan for this gravy since you aren’t using all that flavorful fat you skimmed off.  Once this comes to a boil turn it to simmer and stir it often while it cooks for 10-15 minutes. If it is too runny, let it cook longer, too thicken add stock, water, or wine. 

If you made enough gravy you'll have some to pour over leftovers or to use in turkey pot pie.  
 If you made good gravy, you may have none left. Happy Thanksgiving!

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