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Turkey gravy is no mystery

When my new son-in-law had his first Thanksgiving with us, I happily set another place at the table. In the kitchen, the turkey was roasted and resting; the homemade rolls were baking and perfuming the house.

Meanwhile the top of the range was going full blast with a pot of potatoes simmering and almost ready to mash. I was keeping my eye on a couple of pans of vegetables while whisking the turkey gravy — typical last-minute touches before the feast begins.

Jeff, the son-in-law, wandered into the kitchen and peered intently at the pots for a few moments. He then exclaimed, "This is amazing! I've never seen anything like this in my life."

With my puzzled look, he went on to explain, "I've never seen anyone cook on all four burners at one time in my life!" I had to smile. Family traditions vary, but whether Thanksgiving dinner is cooked on two burners or four, when the table is set and we are sharing a meal, we are family.

Since Thanksgiving is Thursday, many of you may have questions such as this one about making gravy:

I have made turkeys a few times, but the gravy is a mystery. I have never made gravy in my life, but instead buy a jarred kind. Can you tell me how to make gravy?

With the wonderful pan drippings the turkey generates, I cannot imagine substituting store-bought gravy for the real thing. Here is a very easy method.

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

Meanwhile, add 1 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 drippings.

After 5 minutes, the fat will rise to the top of the pan drippings; skim that off. 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 1 cup cold water in a 2-cup glass measuring cup and whisk in 1/2 cup flour until the lumps are gone. (If lumps persist, 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 before the flour can 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.

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