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A nice dark roux is the secret!
As I’ve mentioned in a few other posts recently, we’ve updated some of our Thanksgiving recipes in the last few years. We have all become better cooks over the years, plus our tastes have changed somewhat and of course there is always that food blogger gene that can never let well enough alone. There’s always a better recipe around the corner, right?
In the case of this turkey gravy that was 100% true.
For years, I used a slurry to thicken any gravy I was making. It’s easy, fast, and especially if you are using cornstarch, it’s pretty much fool proof. I knew how to make a roux, and how to use it to thicken gravy, but it seemed like I had enough to do on Thanksgiving already, so I did the same way forever.
Nothing makes a deep richly flavored gravy like a roux though, and you know what? You don’t have to make the roux on Thanksgiving Day! Roux will keep in the fridge just about forever in fact, so you can make it whenever you have the time, then just pull it out of the fridge to soften while the turkey is roasting. Duh. Sometimes it takes me awhile to catch on to the most obvious things.
And – a roux that is made in a wide, shallow pan, like a big saute pan is done much more quickly than one made in a taller saucepan, so it’s not as time consuming as you might think.
So, what the heck is a roux anyway? I’ll back up a little bit. A roux is a mixture of flour and butter, cooked together to various stages, depending on what you plan to use it for. If you have ever made a bechamel sauce, you have made a white roux, which is only cooked for a couple minutes. The roux for this gravy is cooked to a much darker color, but the principles are exactly the same.
Use a shallow saute pan to speed things up. Use unsalted butter to make sure your gravy doesn’t end up too salty. And – perhaps most importantly – don’t walk away from the roux! It can go from perfect to burned in a second, so stay right there. And, the minute it’s done, scrape it right out into a heat-proof container, so it stops cooking immediately.
Forgive the lighting on my stove – not the best for pictures, but then I was more concerned with the roux than the photos.The time between the first and fourth photos is about 15 minutes. It just takes a little patience – and a strong arm! My strategy the last couple years has been to make the roux early in the day, or even a day or two ahead of time. Even today isn’t too soon – trust me, it will keep just fine till Thanksgiving day!
The Best Turkey Gravy
- 4 cups of liquid - stock plus pan drippings from roasting the turkey
- 4 ounces unsalted butter
- 4 ounces all purpose flour
- salt and pepper to taste
- What liquid you use it up to you. I always simmer the giblets and neck of the turkey, covered, along with some onion, carrot and celery for a couple hours while the turkey is roasting. Give it a stir every so often. Strain out all of the solids [you can chop the giblets to add back into the finished gravy, but they have pretty much given their all, so I usually don't], and set the liquid aside in a 3 quart sauce pan, in which you will be making the gravy.
- When the turkey is done roasting, while it rests, pour off all of the pan drippings. Remove as much of the fat as you can [you can actually save it to make a roux for gravy for the leftovers]. I like to use a fat separator for this, but you can just spoon it off.
- Combine the pan dripping with the stock in the sauce pan. If it is more than 4 cups, you can reduce it down by boiling it, or remove the excess and save for the leftover. If it is less than 4 cups, bring it up to that level by adding a good quality low sodium chicken broth.
- Melt the butter in a wide saute pan. You can let it sizzle for a couple minutes to reduce some of moisture in it, which will shorten the time it takes to brown the roux, since part of that time is taken with cooking off that moisture - it's faster before you add the flour.
- Add the flour all at once, and begin whisking constantly, over medium low heat. It should be bubbling nicely, but not spattering at all, so adjust the heat if needed.
- It may be looking a little lumpy and shaggy at first, but it will smooth out gradually.
- Continue cooking and whisking, making sure to thoroughly reach all of the edges, so that you don't get any burned spots.
- For this gravy, you want a color a little darker than peanut butter. It will be very smooth.
- When it's done, remove the pan from the heat, and scrape the roux into a heat safe container. if I am making the gravy right away, I use a heat safe glass measuring cup with a handle, which makes it really easy to slowly add the roux to the stock. Usually though, I am making it ahead to so I use a ramekin or small metal bowl. At this point the roux can be refrigerated until you need it. It will keep at least a couple weeks. If you are in the midst of roasting the turkey when you make it, it will be fine at room temperature for hours.
- Several hours before you are ready to make the gravy, take the roux out of the fridge so it can come to room temperature - if it has separated at all, just stir it back together.
Make the gravy
- Bring the stock and pan drippings up to a low boil.
- Stirring constantly, gradually add the roux - about 1/4 of it at a time - allowing it to fully return to a low boil after each addition.
- Continue adding each 1/4, until you get to the desired consistency. This gravy will continue to thicken as it cools to serving temperature, so leave it slightly thinner than you want it to be.
- Cook the gravy at a simmer for a couple minutes so that it reaches it's full thickness.
- I like to keep a bit of chicken or turkey stock handy, just in case the gravy needs to be thinned at all. If it is not thickened enough when all of the roux is added, reduce it down a little, by simmering another 5 minutes or so, stirring very frequently.
- Serve hot. Reheat over gentle heat, stirring often. refrigerate leftovers
The velvety richness of this gravy is pretty impressive – it really elevates the whole meal. Probably because we like to drizzle it over just about everything on the plate, but isn’t that what you’re supposed to do on Thanksgiving Day?