OK, here’s the secret. You don’t have time to make good gravy on Thanksgiving day. Just accept that, and move on.
Do you remember the last time you tried to make gravy after taking the bird out of the oven, with a houseful of hungry people waiting to sit down to your feast? It probably went something like this. Your oven was heating up Grandma’s stuffing, your cousin’s veggie casserole, and your sister’s butternut squash puree, as your roasted Brussels sprouts were getting cold on the stovetop, next to the cooked but not-yet-mashed potatoes, and the enormous roasting pan of gnarly-looking bits of skin swimming in a mixture of stock and turkey fat. All the counter space was a disaster. Your turkey was sitting under some aluminum foil on a platter, and people were wandering in trying to steal a taste of it. The sit-down time you announced was 20 minutes ago. “Who wants another round of drinks?” you heard your brother asking. You need the gravy NOW. Sooner than now.
(What?!! You purchased gravy? From a grocery store? And threw out the container so no one would know? No need to be ashamed of yourself. Nobody’s perfect. But take comfort in the fact that you’ll never have to do that again!)
This year, things will be different. This year, you can peacefully create the best gravy you’ve ever had–ahead of time. Because you’ll have the time to work at a leisurely pace, getting every step just right, your gravy will be perfect. The weekend before the big day is an ideal time to let your stove do most of the work…and make the holiday go a whole lot smoother. And because people put gravy on almost everything on their plate, it will probably be the silent star of the meal, quietly making everybody happy.
Although the start-to-finish time is probably six hours, most of that time you don’t need to do a thing. Active work time is only about an hour. You can watch a football game, get your laundry done, work on your computer–and the whole time, your house will smell wonderful.
The recipe below yields about one and a half quarts, enough for 16 hungry feasters. Save leftovers for hot turkey sandwiches, casseroles, or a second turkey dinner over the weekend.
Roasted Turkey Gravy
Yield = 1 1/2 quarts (16 3 oz. portions)
Total preparation time = 6 hours (1 hour active)
6 pounds turkey parts
(Any combination of thighs, wings, and drums will do. Here I’m using 2 pounds wings and 4 pounds thighs. You may want to shop around a few days ahead, as packages of turkey parts can vary store to store)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
stems of 1/2 bunch parsley (or 2 tsp. dried)
2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp. black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup turkey fat (rendered from the strained stock)
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/8 tsp. sage
- Set oven rack to middle position. Preheat to 425 degrees.
- Oil the bottom of a heavy-duty roasting pan with vegetable oil. Place turkey
parts skin-side up in pan and roast for 1 1/2 hours.
Remove pan from oven, turn meat, and return to the oven for 1 hour longer. Meat should be deeply browned and crispy (see photo). As ovens and roasting pans can vary, it is a good idea to check the bottom of the pan several times to make sure it doesn’t burn. It is okay to add water, 1/2 cup at a time. The idea is to achieve maximum browning without scorching the meat – I can’t emphasize enough how important this is.
3. Transfer the meat to an 8-quart stock pot. Add 2 cups water to the roasting pan, bring to a boil on top of the stove, then remove from the heat. Using a wooden spoon (a sturdy one with a flat end works best), loosen all the browned crispy bits from the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour liquid into the stock pot, swirling a bit of water in the pan a second time to capture every bit of roasted flavor.
4. Fill the stockpot up to within 3 inches of the top. Add onions, celery, parsley, thyme, garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Place on high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer for 2 1/2 hours. Place a colander in a large bowl and carefully pour the stock into the bowl. Next strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve into a 4-quart sauce pan. Allow to rest for about 10
minutes as the fat rises to the surface. Skim the fat off and put it in a measuring cup. Add butter if necessary to make 1/2 cup. Pour into a small saucepan and put aside. Gently boil stock and reduce to 1 1/2 quarts (6 cups). Stir in salt, pepper, and sage.
5. Meanwhile, heat the small saucepan of fat until it begins to bubble. Let it continue to bubble for a few minutes (to expel any residual stock picked up in the skimming process). Off the heat, stir in the flour to form a roux. Cook for about 10 minutes on low heat, stirring frequently. Fill a 1-cup measure with roux and reserve the remainder for another use or discard.
6. Bring the stock to a boil and whisk in about 1/2 cup of the roux until thickened and smooth. After a minute or so, check the consistency of the (now) gravy. Add more roux as necessary. (I added about 2 more tablespoons for my batch). Simmer for about 5 minutes and taste to see if you need salt and/or pepper. Pour into storage container(s), allow to come to room temperature, cover and refrigerate.
7. On turkey day, reheat to a boil and keep warm until service. As reheated gravies can sometimes become thicker, add a bit of water if necessary to get the consistency you desire.
If you want a printable version of this recipe, you should click here. Have fun! And be sure to leave a comment to tell us what you think after you have succeeded.