Thanksgiving Gravy

I love this time of year, well, this week more than anything else.  If you’re a foodie you live for this time of year.  I picked up my turkey yesterday and then spent part of an afternoon shopping for wine – making sure to pick up a good mix of white and red.  I settled on an Oregon Pinot Noir from Copper Hill, an Erath Pinot Gris and then a few bottles of nothing special – Cotes du Rhone, a South Australian Shiraz, prosecco, etc.

Still, that’s what Thanksgiving is all about.  Good food, good wine, eating glutinous amounts until you can’t eat or drink anymore, slumping on the couch and passing out until night time.

I’m preparing this year by making cinnamon ice cream and a pumpkin tiramisu.  They should complement each other nicely.  Though I made the ice cream last night and unfortunately I added too much vanilla bean and it tastes like really great vanilla rather than cinnamon.  Oh well, it’ll still be delicious.

One thing that always goes overlooked is gravy.  It’s one of those things that you whip up from the pan drippings.  But there is no gray area when it comes to gravy – it’s either world class or terrible. 

“For less experienced cooks, the recipe for gravy often includes anxiety. The very first step — making stock from the neck and organs that come stuffed inside the turkey — can be unbalancing. “I can cook 30 different pasta dishes, but I have never seen those things before,” said Chelsea Behrens, a “semi-vegetarian” in San Rafael, Calif., who made her first Thanksgiving dinner last year. “Which one was the heart, which one was the gizzard — how am I supposed to know?” Ms. Behrens threw away the innards and used canned chicken broth instead,” writes Julia Moskin of the NY Times.

“Gravy anxiety can gnaw away at any cook’s Thanksgiving. Many fear not having enough drippings to work with, finding just a crusty slick in the roasting pan rather than the hoped-for sloshy panful. Others dread the moment the turkey leaves the roasting pan and full-blown gravy panic sets in: Where’s the flour? Thyme or rosemary? Too much salt? Others must defend against the relative who takes off her coat and takes over the gravy on arrival.”

The point being to not overlook this critical aspect of Thanksgiving.  Sure, you’ve got your desserts and appetizers and turkey and stuffing and side dishes, but an excellent gravy makes up for a lot of mistakes.  A few pointers for gravy making from the article:

  • By roasting a few turkey parts to produce those crucial pan drippings and quarts of brown, savory stock before Thanksgiving Day, the cook can get a significant head start.
  • The stock can be made weeks ahead; so can the gravy itself. The golden turkey fat from the roasting pan is reserved and forms the base for a rich roux. The finished gravy freezes beautifully and only needs to be whisked in a hot pan and tasted for salt and pepper before serving.
  • On Thanksgiving, the roasting pan can still be put to use: pour off extra fat and sauté some mushrooms or shallots in the pan; deglaze with milk, water or wine; add simmered giblets or neck meat; or simply skim the pan juices. Taste the results and stir into some, or all, of the premade gravy. (Serving two different gravies is the height of Thanksgiving luxury).

So don’t panic just plan ahead to impress your family and take care of business.  And remember gravy is just fat, flour and liquid with a few spices for taste thrown in.

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