Getting The Turkey Gravy Done Right
November 18, 1998. BY SUSAN SELASKY, Free Press Test Kitchen Director.
Slices of turkey breast without a ladleful or two of gravy? Plain as Jane. A mound of mashed potatoes without a puddle of gravy? Naked as a jaybird. It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without a gravy boat brimming with rich, brown liquid made from the pan drippings. But what are the secrets to making this silky accompaniment smooth and lump-free? We'll guide you through the basics with advice from Somerset Inn executive chef Mark Kuzma, who calls Thanksgiving dinner his favorite meal, and from Rick Rodgers' "Thanksgiving 101" (Broadway, $15). "If you put as much time in making the gravy as the entire meal, it will bring the whole meal together and your guests will appreciate it," Kuzma says.
WHAT DO I NEED TO MAKE A BASIC PAN GRAVY? For starters, you'll need the drippings that collect in the roasting pan. If there aren't enough -- a rare occurrence -- use turkey or chicken stock to supplement them. You'll also use the little brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. They add flavor and can be strained at the end. You'll also use the fat you've skimmed from the pan drippings, or butter, if needed. For thickening the gravy, you'll need flour or a mixture of equal amounts of cornstarch and water. And you'll season it all with salt and pepper.
WHAT'S THE SECRET TO A RICH, DEEP-BROWN GRAVY? The pan juices caramelize as they collect during roasting. That gives the gravy depth, richness and a nice brown color. If needed, you can use Kitchen Bouquet, a bottled seasoning, to deepen the hue.
WHAT AMOUNT OF PAN DRIPPINGS SHOULD I HAVE? That's hard to say. The amount that accumulates will depend on the turkey size and whether any other liquid was used during roasting. The turkey the Free Press tested last week was about 16 pounds. We supplemented the pan juices with about 1 1/2 cups of turkey stock during roasting. When combined with additional stock after skimming the fat from the drippings, we ended up with about 6 cups of gravy. Keep an eye on the pan juices when you periodically check the turkey during roasting. If they seem to be drying up, add stock, wine or water so the juices won't burn.
HOW DO I DEGREASE THE PAN JUICES? After you've removed the turkey from the pan, pour the drippings into a bowl or glass measuring cup. Let stand for at least 5 minutes to allow the fat (a yellowish liquid) to rise to the top. Skim it off with a spoon and set aside. You can supplement the remaining drippings with turkey stock to make more gravy if needed.
DO I MAKE THE GRAVY IN THE ROASTING PAN? Yes. After pouring the pan drippings into the measuring cup, set the pan over two burners on the stove until you're ready to make the gravy.
WHERE DO I BEGIN? First, measure out enough of the skimmed fat to correspond with the amount of flour called for in the recipe. Use equal amounts of each. (Rodgers says 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour and 1 1/2 tablespoons of fat should be used per cup of liquid.) Turn the burners to low heat. Add the skimmed fat to the pan, then whisk in the flour, stirring constantly and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook the mixture about 2 minutes. Then whisk in the degreased pan juices, including any stock, if you are using it. Continue to cook, whisking often until the gravy is thickened and lump-free, about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a gravy boat and serve.
HOW DO I AVOID LUMPS? Proper whisking should smooth out any lumps. Instead of flour for thickening, Kuzma says a mixture of equal parts cornstarch and water makes a smoother gravy. When adding to the stock or degreased pan juices, whisk it in vigorously. Allow the mixture to cook a while and any lumps will cook out. "Usually, if you see lumps in the gravy, it's not done," Kuzma says. "Allow about 15 minutes for it to cook."
DO I NEED TO USE THE PAN JUICES? No. Kuzma says you can make a turkey stock ahead of time for gravy. You can use a small turkey, turkey parts such as wings or even a whole carcass. Sprinkle the trimmings and carcass with salt and pepper and a little oil and roast in a 375-to-400-degree oven for about a 1/2 hour or until golden brown. Remove and place in a large pot and add chopped carrots, onion, celery, black peppercorns and bay leaves. Add water to cover, bring to a boil and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Strain the mixture through a sieve, discarding the vegetables, and place the juices back into the pot; continue to simmer about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the mixture is reduced by about one-third. Another way is to place the turkey parts, vegetables and seasonings in a stockpot. Cover with water, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer 2 to 3 hours. Strain as above. You also can use a purchased turkey soup base. Bring it to a boil and reduce it by one-third for an intense flavor. Thicken the soup base with about 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water. Add some cooked, chopped turkey meat and season as desired.
Printed by permission from the Detroit Free Press. 1999.
TURKEY GRAVY RECIPE
1 pkg. neck, heart, gizzard from turkey giblets
1 carrot, thickly sliced
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
1 celery rib, thickly sliced
4 cloves garlic
1/2 t. salt
3 T. fat from turkey drippings
3 T. all purpose flour
1/2 t. salt to taste
freshly ground pepper
In a (3 quart) saucepan, over high heat, place neck, heart, gizzard, vegetables, garlic and 1/2 t. salt in enough cold water to cover. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for 60 minutes, skimming any foam from the top. Strain the broth into a large bowl, cover and reserve broth in the refrigerator. To make gravy, remove cooked turkey and roasting rack from the roasting pan. Strain poultry drippings through a sieve into a (4 cup) measuring cup. Add 1 c. giblet broth to the roasting pan and stir til the crusty brown bits are loosened. Pour the deglazed liquid into the cup with the drippings. Let the mixture stand a few minutes til the fat rises to the top. Over medium heat, spoon 3 T. fat from the poultry drippings into a (2 quart) saucepan. Whisk flour and 1/2 t. salt into the heated fat and continue to cook and stir til the flour turns golden brown. Meanwhile, skim and discard any fat remaining on top of the poultry drippings. Add remaining broth and enough water to the poultry drippings to equal 3 1/2 c. Gradually whisk in warm poultry drippings mixture. Cook and stir, til gravy simmers and is slightly thick. Season to taste.
EASY TURKEY GRAVY
1/2 c. butter, cut into about 8 pieces
1 t. coarse black pepper
1/2 c. all purpose flour
4 c. pan drippings or 4 c. chicken stock
If using drippings from a chicken or turkey: pour drippings into a fine mesh strainer then allow the drippings to cool a bit so that the fat rises to the top and starts to solidify. Use a spoon to remove the fat. If you don’t have enough drippings to equal 4 c., add enough chicken or turkey stock til you have 4 c. of drippings. In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 c. butter over medium-low heat. Sprinkle in 1 t. coarse black pepper Slowly add in 1/2 c. flour, constantly whisking to combine. After a few minutes, the flour will be well incorporated into the butter. Slowly begin to pour in drippings and/or chicken broth into the pan, constantly whisking. Allow the gravy to cook for several minutes so that it can thicken up and cook out the "flour" taste. Serve immediately, or keep on very low heat til you’re ready to serve.
Please visit our free recipes pages 1, 2 & 3 for additional recipes to use for your holiday meal.