By Barbara Beltrami
I can still see them standing there by the stove, Mother and Aunt Ruth in their ruffled gingham aprons and Aunt Lillian with the dish towel tucked in her waistband. And I can still hear the arguing as each one vied for her version of the best and, of course, only way to make the gravy.
“You have to chop up the neck meat and the gizzards That’s what thickens it.”
“No it doesn’t, it just makes it lumpy.”
“You have to deglaze the pan with a good splash of wine.
“What do you want to do, get the children drunk?”
“You’re not going to use all that fat, are you?
“What do you think makes it taste so good?”
“I told you we should have put herbs in it. It has no flavor.”
“Not so much flour! Too much salt!”
“It’ll never thicken with the flame that low.”
“Don’t cook it down so much. We’re not going to have enough!”
And so it went, year after year. Some Thanksgivings the gravy was great, others it was awful, but most Thanksgivings it was OK enough to save the mashed potatoes and make the white meat seem moister than it really was. I’ve developed, with no one allowed to come near the stove when I’m making it, my own versions of those turkey gravies of yore. And I certainly don’t have to tell you what to serve them with! Just make sure they’re nice and hot.
My Favorite Turkey Gravy
YIELD: Makes about 8 cups
¼ cup vegetable or olive oil
1 leek, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced
Neck, giblets (except liver) and one or two extra turkey wings, separated at joints
8 cups chicken broth
1 celery rib, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 garlic clove
Handful of herb sprigs (parsley, sage, thyme)
Turkey drippings from roasting pan
¾ cup dry white wine
½ cup flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat, then add leek and turkey parts; cook, stirring very frequently, until browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add broth, celery, carrots, garlic and herbs; cover and simmer two hours. (I do this while the turkey is roasting.) Remove and discard veggies and all turkey parts but wings. (They can be de-boned and saved for another use, dog or cat.)
When turkey is done, remove it to cutting board to rest; pour roasting pan drippings into bowl and let fat rise to top. Place roasting pan over two burners on stove top over medium heat. Add wine and with a wooden spoon, scrape any browned bits from the pan bottom until liquid is slightly reduced, 3 to 5 minutes.
Reserving half a cup, discard the separated fat, add pan juices to liquid in roasting pan and combine thoroughly. Pour half cup fat into large saucepan, whisk in flour, salt and pepper and continue to stir until roux achieves a nice golden brown color, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually ladle hot broth into flour mixture, whisking constantly, over medium-low heat. Add turkey dripping mixture, stir vigorously and bring to a boil, then simmer gently until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes.
My Other Favorite Turkey Gravy
YIELD: Makes 4 to 4½ cups
3–3½ cups roasted poultry stock
½ cup apple cider
½ cup flour
1½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2/3 cup mixture of chopped fresh sage, parsley and thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Carefully lift turkey from roasting pan; set aside to rest for 20 minutes. Pour drippings into small bowl or measuring cup. Let fat rise to surface and skim off but reserve ¼ cup. Add drippings to stock. Set roasting pan over two cook-top burners on medium heat. Add cider and cook, scraping up any brown bits, about two minutes. Whisk in flour and reserved fat; continue cooking and whisking until roux is a nice deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Still whisking, gradually ladle in stock and simmer until mixture is thickened. Add vinegar, soy sauce, herbs and salt and pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve.