The Sons and The Latin Lover revere gravy as if it’s an elixir that brings the Wisdom of the Ages to those that consume it. You know, like a food group unto itself. The Goddess may have mentioned in passing, that for her, Thanksgiving dinner is less about turkey and much, much more about the sides. As far as she’s concerned, turkey is a waste of time and oven space. Horrors! Sacrilege! Yeah, she understands she’s in the minority on this one. Give her a pork roast, or even better, roast goose and she’ll have a dreamy smile going for days. But no matter what there needs to be gravy.
Gravy is related to the Mother Sauces. Sort of a cross between velouté and espagnole, with a hint of béchamel; a compound sauce, so to speak. To make perfect gravy, your needs are simple…fat (from the pan drippings, if possible) flour (cornstarch or arrowroot can be used, particularly if gluten-free is needed) and broth, water, wine, cream, etc. You would make a slurry, equal parts cold liquid and cornstarch or arrowroot, stirred together until well combined, then added to simmering liquid and cooked for a few minutes. Do remember not to use arrowroot when you add dairy, as the consistency gets funky.
We’re going to focus on a roux. There is a white roux, which is what one uses to make béchamel, a blond roux, which has a bit of color to it (that’s more what we’re going to be using here) and dark (brown) roux for the other options. Cajun cooking uses a very, very dark roux. The longer you cook the roux, the darker it will get, but you will lose some of the thickening power. Roux acts as both a flavor enhancer and thickening agent.
To make 8 cups of gravy, and you’ll want about that much for Thanksgiving, you’ll need 1/2 cup each fat and flour (or about 1 tablespoon of each per cup of liquid) and about 7 or 8 cups of very warm broth. For fat, skim the fat off of those drippings; there’s some extra flavor there. I use the neck and giblets of the turkey (or chicken), except the liver, some dry white wine and broth, which I simmer for at least 30 minutes, along with small carrot and half of an onion. After 30 minutes, strain the liquid and set aside. You can do this ahead of time, but absolutely heat the strained broth until it’s very, very warm. You will be less likely to have lumpy gravy, if you s-l-o-w-l-y add very warm liquid to the roux. The very first thing to do, after you remove the bird and pour off the liquid, is to add the fat (that you skimmed from the drippings) back into the roasting pan. The heat should be at about medium-low to low. Use a whisk and nudge the fond, you know, the bits and pieces that have stuck to the pan…there’s flavor in them ‘thar bits! Don’t worry if they stick a bit, when you begin to add liquid, they’ll loosen. Now dump the flour into the pan and whisk it around immediately. It will probably get pasty and clump. Don’t worry…trust The Goddess…breathe…breathe…it will be fine. Keep whisking and cooking the mixture. If it picks up some color some color, that’s fine. Now, and this is IMPORTANT. Gently pour about 1 cup of very warm stock into the pan, whisking constantly as you add it. The roux will seize again…breathe, breathe…this is normal. Add stock s-l-o-w-l-y, cup by cup, whisking as you add the stock and you will notice after the 3rd or 4th addition, there will be gravy. Once the roux is no longer clumping up, you can whisk in the remaining stock all at once. Whisk it up until everything comes together, lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. Make certain you’ve loosened any stuck-on bits. Give it a whisking every now and then, during that final cooking time. Taste and season with salt and pepper. You’ve just made gravy! See, how hard that wasn’t!
You can embellish your gravy with any number of tasty things. Think about what you’re going to serve it with and add accordingly. You can see that I tossed some chopped shallots into the pan, when I added the fat to the pan. You can add garlic, thinly sliced leeks, finely minced onion, etc. or just leave it as is; that’s up to you. If you add dry herbs, add them to the strained broth; if you add fresh herbs, stir them in when you have about 5 minutes of cooking time left. If you are adding mushrooms, sauté them in the fat before adding the flour, remove the cooked mushrooms and set aside. You may need to add additional fat if the mushrooms absorb too much. Then, stir the mushrooms back into the gravy just long enough so they will simmer for two or three minutes before the end of cooking. If you don’t want to use mushrooms, but you like their earthy flavor, grind some dried mushrooms to a powder or score yourself some porcini powder at The Spice Mill.
That’s pretty much all there is to it. Thanksgiving just got better…so did the mashed potatoes and turkey!