My favorite part of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner actually happens before the meal. Everyone crams into the kitchen to finish those last minute side dishes or “oversee” the process – AKA snag bits of turkey as it is being carved. Usually the last, but probably the most important, menu item made before dinner is the gravy. The gravy brings the whole meal together adding a new level of deliciousness to the mashed potatoes, stuffing, and turkey.
Like many before me, I learned to make gravy from watching my mother. It took me a long time to build up the courage to try to make it myself, for I have seen the trouble a poorly made gravy can cause at the Thanksgiving dinner table…
There are 3 main components to gravy: Fat, starch, and liquid. For the fat and liquid, we will use the pan drippings from the roasted turkey (separated) and for the starch- any All Purpose flour will do.
To start, we will want to pour off and separate all of the pan drippings from our roasted turkey. If you have a gravy separator, great! If not, you can skim the fat off the top with a spoon or pour your drippings into a steep sided bowl and refrigerate until all of the fat particles solidify on the surface and then simply remove the fat “puck”. Or check out this gravy separator on on Amazon- Norpro Gravy Separator with Strainer.
Next is the roux. All (good) gravy is born from a good roux. Roux is a classic French cooking component that is used when creating numerous sauces and soups and acts as a thickening agent. Roux is created by combining equal parts fat and flour. To make the roux, start by melting 4 tablespoons of the separated fat in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Once completely melted, mix in 4 tablespoons of flour. Using a whisk will help ensure we have a smooth and velvety consistency. No lumps! You need to constantly, but slowly, stir the roux to keep it from burning. We want to cook the roux until it is a light terracotta color. This process can take some time, so be patient!
Once you have a good roux, pour in about 1 cup of dry white wine (something like a Sauvignon Blanc or Unoaked Chardonnay) while whisking vigorously to ensure no lumps form. This will cause a good bit of sizzling and steam and the roux will want to clump up, but just work it until you have a smooth mixture. Once the wine is fully incorporated, add in about 3 cups of the separated liquid, supplementing with chicken or turkey stock if needed (I definitely had to supplement on this one!)
If your gravy becomes too liquid, DO NOT add more flour. This will result in a raw flour taste. Instead, lightly simmer and stir until the gravy reduces and thickens.
Season to taste with herbs of choice, salt, and pepper. I like to use parsley, sage, rosemary, and/or thyme (thank you Simon and Garfunkel!) in my turkey gravy, but you can pull in any combination of herbs and seasoning that appeals to you. I also like the brown pepper in my gravy, but if you want a consistent color, try using white pepper.
If you’re afraid your gravy is lumpy, or don’t like the visible herbs, simply strain through a sieve before pouring into your gravy boat.
Voila! You have a perfect turkey gravy that is sure to win your in-law’s approval during the holidays!