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The gravy train


March 10, 2014

With all the hoopla surrounding the Thanksgiving turkey—to brine or not, to stuff or not, to baste or not—not to mention the myriad sides, the gravy is often relegated to the back burner, so to speak. But this essential sauce can mask a multitude of sins (dry turkey, gluey mashed potatoes, leaden stuffing) and deserves more careful consideration. There are several schools of thought on what makes the best gravy, though pan drippings and giblets are generally involved, and for some reason it seems to be a frequent source of anxiety. So what if I told you a rich and flavorful version could be yours without the bother of skimming fat and whisking in flour?

Yes, stock is required, and I’m going to recommend that you make your own. Most turkeys come with the neck and giblets stowed in the cavity and these (without the liver, its taste is too strong) can be simmered with onion, carrot, celery, parsley and a bay leaf while the turkey roasts. The resulting stock usually becomes the base of a gravy that requires a roux and defatted pan drippings to achieve the desired thick texture. It is not unusual for chalky lumpiness to ensue. But there’s another technique, taught to me by an old friend many moons ago, that forever banished disappointing gravy from my Thanksgiving table.