THANKS­GIV­ING Don’t set­tle for dull turkey gravy

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FOOD - By Sara Moul­ton

Just be­cause Thanks­giv­ing mostly is about tra­di­tion doesn’t mean that we aren’t open to go­ing off-script when it comes to side dishes and ex­actly how to cook the big bird.

But the gravy? It’s where in­no­va­tion goes to die! Gen­er­ally, we’re con­tent to just pour some store­bought chicken broth, along with a lit­tle but­ter and flour, into the pan in which the turkey was roasted, then call it a day. In truth, I love pan gravy as much as any­one, but you can make a more exciting gravy with just a lit­tle more work.

We were taught in cook­ing school that your sauce will only be as good as the liq­uid you add to it. In the case of turkey gravy, that would be turkey broth. What can be done to amp up its fla­vor?

To start, you want to brown the turkey parts that have been packed in­side the bird — the neck and the giblets (that is, the heart and the giz­zards). Then, slice off the bird’s wings — which no­body eats any­way — and add them to the other parts. (Do not add the liver; it will make the stock bit­ter. In­stead, just re­serve or freeze it un­til you can saute it in but­ter and serve it on toast. Yum!)

Brown­ing these turkey parts in the com­pany of some car­rots and onions de­vel­ops com­plex fla­vors. This is called the Mail­lard reaction. It’s what hap­pens when amino acids com­bined with the sugars found in meat and many veg­eta­bles are heated above 300 F. Con­cen­trated juices from these in­gre­di­ents will col­lect in the bot­tom of the pan as you brown them. When you deglaze the pan, you dis­solve those juices and add them to the browned in­gre­di­ents, fur­ther deep­en­ing the stock’s fla­vor.

You may be sur­prised to find tomato paste among this recipe’s in­gre­di­ents, but toma­toes hap­pen to be a ter­rific source of umami. Umami is the fifth taste, af­ter sweet, sour, salty and bit­ter. It is usu­ally de­scribed as “meaty.” The car­rots in the stock also con­trib­ute umami. Briefly saute­ing the tomato paste in the skil­let helps to brown it and de­velop its nat­u­ral sugars.

Hav­ing cooked up your stock in a sep­a­rate pan, you’re even­tu­ally go­ing to want to add to it the juices that streamed out of the turkey while it roasted and use the fat that ac­cu­mu­lated in the pan while you basted the bird. Again, this is how you in­ten­sify the gravy’s turkey fla­vor.

By the way, don’t de­spair if your turkey is miss­ing the happy lit­tle pack­age of giblets and neck bone usu­ally found in­side the cav­ity; you’ll still have the turkey wings. Just cut them off and sup­ple­ment with some chicken wings. You’ll need about 8 ounces of poul­try parts in to­tal. Fi­nally, I rec­om­mend mak­ing the turkey stock a day or two in ad­vance of the feast. It will make the big day it­self a lit­tle less stress­ful.

Big­ger and bet­ter turkey gravy

Start to fin­ish: 4 hours 15 min­utes (35 min­utes ac­tive) Makes 5 cups The neck, wings and giblets (about 8-ounces to­tal) from an 18- to 24-pound turkey 1 ta­ble­spoon veg­etable oil 1 medium yellow onion, medium-chopped 1 medium car­rot, medium-chopped 2 gar­lic cloves, smashed and peeled 1 ta­ble­spoon tomato paste 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth 1 cel­ery stalk, coarsely chopped 2 sprigs fresh thyme 1 bay leaf The drip­pings, 1⁄2 cup fat and pan juices from an 18- to 24-pound roasted turkey But­ter, melted (if there isn’t enough fat from the roast to make the gravy) 1⁄2 cup plus 2 ta­ble­spoons in­stant flour (such as Won­dra) Kosher salt and ground black pep­per

Care­fully chop the neck and wings into 1-inch pieces and pat them and the giblets dry. In a large skil­let over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the turkey pieces and giblets, re­duce the heat to medium and cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til they are golden brown, 8 to 10 min­utes. Add the onion, car­rot and gar­lic and cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til the veg­eta­bles are golden brown, about 5 min­utes.

Add the tomato paste and cook, stir­ring, for 1 minute. Trans­fer the mix­ture to a medium saucepan and add 1 cup of water to the skil­let. Deglaze the pan over high heat, scrap­ing up the brown bits with a spat­ula, un­til all the bits have been dis­solved. Pour the mix­ture over the turkey parts in the saucepan. Add the chicken broth and 2 cups water to the saucepan.

Bring the liq­uid to a boil, re­duce to a sim­mer and cook, skim­ming the scum that rises to the sur­face with a skim­mer or slot­ted spoon, un­til there is no more scum, 15 to 20 min­utes. Add the cel­ery, thyme and bay leaf, then sim­mer gen­tly for 2 hours. Strain the stock through a colan­der, press­ing hard on the solids. Dis­card the solids and mea­sure the stock; you should have 4 cups. If you have more, re­turn the liq­uid to the saucepan and sim­mer un­til it is re­duced to 4 cups. If you have less, add water to the stock to make 4 cups. Cool, cover and chill un­til it is time to make the gravy.

When the turkey is cooked and rest­ing on a plat­ter, pour all the liq­uid in the roast­ing pan into a fat sep­a­ra­tor or large glass mea­sur­ing cup. Pour or skim off the fat from the cup and re­serve it; leave the cook­ing juices in the fat sep­a­ra­tor. You will need ½ cup of the fat for the gravy; if you don’t have ½ cup, sup­ple­ment with melted but­ter.

Set the roast­ing pan on top of two burn­ers set over medium-low. Add the fat, fol­lowed by the flour. Whisk the mix­ture, prefer­ably us­ing a flat whisk, for 5 min­utes. Add the re­served cook­ing juices from the roast­ing pan and two-thirds of the turkey stock. Bring the mix­ture to a boil, whisk­ing. If the gravy needs thin­ning, add more of the turkey stock and the juices that ac­cu­mu­lated on the plat­ter where the turkey has been rest­ing.

Re­duce the heat to a sim­mer and sim­mer for 10 min­utes. Sea­son with salt and pep­per.

Nutri­tion in­for­ma­tion per ¼ cup: 70 calo­ries; 50 calo­ries from fat (71 per­cent of to­tal calo­ries); 6 g fat (1.5 g sat­u­rated; 0 g trans fats); 5 mg choles­terol; 170 mg sodium; 4 g car­bo­hy­drate; 0 g fiber; 1 g su­gar; 1 g pro­tein.


This photo shows home­made gravy in Con­cord, N.H. The turkey stock used in this gravy recipe takes a few hours to make, but it is mostly hands off. The gravy it­self also can be prepped ahead up to the point of need­ing the roasted turkey drip­pings, then quickly fin­ished just be­fore serving.

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