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Bonnie Aeschliman: Time for turkey, time to make the gravy

  • Published Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012, at 9:59 p.m.

I have cooked Thanksgiving dinner every year — except one.

I once was invited to my son’s home for the big event. I was told to bring nothing; everything was under control. They insisted I relax and enjoy my grandchildren and not to venture into the kitchen until dinner was announced. They wanted to cook the whole Thanksgiving dinner for me — a very strange role reversal, but one that delighted me. As I played with my grandchildren, wonderful aromas were wafting throughout the house. I knew dinner would be ready soon.

Then, suddenly, my son appeared and asked if I could come into the kitchen. They needed some help. The turkey was golden and glistening, the potatoes mashed, the salad and vegetables ready to serve. Homemade hot rolls were coming out of the oven. The pies were baked. It all looked wonderful.

My son announced there was a problem: Would I mind making the gravy? He sheepishly admitted they didn’t have a clue what to do with the drippings from the turkey. Happily, I took over the gravy-making, and soon we were enjoying a fabulous feast.

However, making gravy is a mystery to many. I am asked more questions about making gravy than any other part of Thanksgiving meal. Although I addressed this last year in my column, I still receive questions about how to make gravy.

Q. I am having Thanksgiving at my home this year and am making the turkey and gravy. Turkey is no problem, but how do you turn all that juice and drippings into a gravy? It all seems so complicated that I just purchase gravy in a jar. I want to make the real thing this year. Can you tell me how to make turkey gravy for dummies?

A: There are two basic ways to make turkey gravy. One method starts with making a roux — using some of the fat from the drippings and adding flour to make a loose paste. Then adding turkey broth and cooking it until it thickens.

But the second method is easier and also my favorite. It uses a slurry (flour and water mixture) to thicken the pan drippings. It is a little lighter and has less fat. But the pan drippings give it a rich flavor. Here’s how I do it. Actually, making gravy is more of a process than a recipe.

How to Make Turkey Gravy:

Remove the turkey from the roasting pan to a platter, cover it loosely with foil and let it rest. Pour the pan juices into a large glass measure or bowl.

Meanwhile, add one cup water to the roasting pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon or heat-resistant spatula, scraping up the crisp bits that are stuck to the pan. Add that to the pan juices in the bowl. After five minutes, the fat will rise to the top. Skim that off and discard. You don’t need those calories. Strain and measure the drippings.

For three cups gravy, you will need three cups pan drippings. Don’t worry if you don’t have that much, just add a good quality low-sodium canned chicken broth until you have three cups. Pour into a 2-quart saucepan.

To make the slurry (thickening agent), place one cup cold water in a two-cup glass measuring cup and whisk in ½ cup flour until the lumps are gone. If lumps persist, just strain it.

Place saucepan with broth over medium heat and whisk in the slurry. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly; simmer for a minute or two. If too thick, thin down with more chicken broth. For thicker gravy, let it simmer and reduce a bit or stir in a bit more slurry.

Just remember the gravy needs to come to a boil and continue to simmer for a couple of minutes for the flour to cook and to thicken the gravy.

Season with salt and pepper. If you have whisked properly, you will have no lumps. But if you need more practice at the whisking technique, don’t fret. Just strain the lumps out and serve it with the turkey. It will be delicious.

Bonnie Aeschliman is a certified culinary professional who owns Cooking at Bonnie’s Place in Wichita. For more information, call 316-425-5224 or visit cookingatbonnies.com. To submit a question to Bonnie, e-mail her at bonnie@cookingatbonnies.com.

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