This is it: turkey day is approaching. Plenty of cooks who manage very well all year panic when Thanksgiving approaches. How do you cook the perfect turkey? What is stuffing, anyway? Yikes, gravy! How do you make that? I’ve received a request from my sister-in-law DD to help her and the many other anxious cooks out there. So, back by popular demand, my most requested recipe: Thanksgiving gravy.
This is a recipe for gravy that will make you famous, and the best news is that you can make this gravy without roasting a bird! Really. You can keep this same gravy on hand, in the freezer, as a starter for any night you want sauce or gravy for any kind of meat, be it poultry, beef, etc.
I love sauce and gravy. When asked what I would like to contribute to Thanksgiving dinner if I’m not hosting, I say gravy. I have made this gravy over the years and have carried it from CA to Maine for Thanksgiving. Skip the main course of meat and give me gravy with rice or stuffing, veggies, salad and cranberry sauce, and I will be over the moon.
I developed this recipe years ago, when, by accident, I over-reduced a pot of stock. I’d walked away from the kitchen and had become distracted. When I returned to the kitchen what I found was a caramelized crust on the bottom of the stock pot. Right after that, my sister, B, called. She wasn’t feeling well that day. Her all-time favorite dish is mashed potatoes and gravy. She knows I like to cook and so she called to find out if I could make a goodwill run to her home with some mashed potatoes and gravy. At first I said “no”. But then I thought about the over reduced stock in the bottom of my pan. “Let me see what I can do,” I said. And the rest is, well, gravy….
OK, enough of my obsessions. Here’s the recipe:
4 cups poultry stock**
4 tablespoons softened butter
4 tablespoons flour
Combine the softened butter and the flour. Mix well. Reserve.
This next step, reducing and browning the stock, is key. Place 1 cup of the stock in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce over medium heat until the stock browns and forms thick, glossy bubbles at the bottom of the saucepan. This process will take 10 to 15 minutes. Keep checking your pot and watch once most of the liquid has evaporated.
After most of the liquid evaporates, you will begin to see the remaining stock on the bottom of the pan begin to brown. Watch it carefully. You want to achieve a deep brown color, but take care not to burn it. This is where you’ll be developing the rich, full taste of your gravy.
Deglaze the pan by adding another cup of stock. (You may also use any other liquid of your choice such as wine or citrus juice if you prefer.) Stir occasionally. The browned stock at the bottom of the saucepan will be dislodged and dissolved by the freshly added stock as it boils in your pan.
Once the stock that has browned on the bottom of the pan is dissolved, add the remaining stock to the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Whisk the reserved flour/butter mixture into the boiling stock. Whisk it well to make sure it is fully dissolved into the stock.
Return to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. A crust will form on the surface. Do not stir it back into the gravy! This crust is comprised of proteins and fiber from the flour. Beneath it is a layer of some the butter you added earlier. Skim any crust or other impurities from the surface. You may remove the fat as well. Or, stir it back into your gravy with the addition of a little liquid: water or stock.
Your resulting gravy will have a smooth texture and coat a spoon well. If the gravy appears too thin, continue to reduce it until the desired thickness is obtained. If it’s too thick, add additional stock or water.
Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Your gravy is ready to serve. If you have roasted a bird, do add the deglazed pan drippings to the gravy.
*This recipe yields approximately 2 ½ cups gravy. Depending on the enthusiasm of your guests, you will need 2 to 3 cups of finished gravy for 8 people.
**I use homemade stock to make gravy, but I’m always asked if one could use canned stock. I never have so I can’t recommend a product to you. However, I would caution: when you make this gravy you will be reducing the liquid/stock down, which means you are going to concentrate all flavors present, so use a low sodium product and one that is fairly bland tasting out of the box or can.