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Gravy good enough to drink: what makes your mostly classic turkey gravy special?

Mr. JudiAU and I test-roasted a turkey earlier this week because we haven't cooked one before. A combo spatchcock-Zuni dry brine produced terrific results and it only took an hour and ten minutes!

I made a simple gray by deglazing the dripping pan with white wine and a little cognac and adding it to turkey stock prepared in advance, a bit or cream, thickened with a bit of flour, and some thyme. Toddler JudiAU drank a bowl. =)

It was superb on its own and very good the potatoes but somewhat diluted. I am going to tinker with it before the big day.

So-- what additions make your gravy special, assuming it is made in the mostly classic way.

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  1. My goto recipe here is Paul Prudhomme's Spiced Pear Gravy for Fowl. The pear reduction allows me to more than double the volume of gravy made from the fond -- and you know there is never enough gravy! As with most of his recipes, you have to modify the fat and sugar content to avoid becoming his body shape, and reduce the pepper for the sake of your guests!

    The crux of the recipe is to take 4 cups of ripe pears, peeled, cored and cubed, combine with sugar and water and reduce it down to a caramelized paste - the darker the caramel the better. That can be done well in advance. Then, after the pan has been deglazed, work the caramelized pears into the gravy with plenty of stock. The sugars also help thicken the gravy, so you'll need less flour. This would work well with the gravy base you describe.

    2 Replies
    1. re: BernalKC

      I have nothing to add except that I'm watching this thread like a hawk. I don't eat gravy. EVERYONE else invited does and I can't make it to save a day. So! Please! let's keep this alive!

      It comes down to someone else offering to make the gravy when I have a pan w/ giblets and drippings in a pan and a really stupid look on my face with a whisk in hand!

      1. re: JerryMe

        The Martha Stewart website has a traditional recipe and video on it. Although, she calls for a LOT of marsala which sounds very strong.

    2. My "secret" ingredient is soy sauce. After I make the gravy and taste it, if it's a bit bland, I find a good splash of soy gives it the depth and umami that is missing.

      1 Reply
      1. re: TorontoJo

        I forgot to mention that I also throw a dozen or so shallots into the roasting pan with the turkey. After roasting, I puree the shallots and mix the puree in with the gravy. It gives a wonderful deep flavor. Other details include dry sherry to deglaze the roasting pan and thickening with a roux made from turkey fat and flour. No raw flour or cornstarch.

      2. I thicken mine with beurre manie. So rich and delicious this way, more so (I think) than thickening with just cornstarch. Not too much salt, but I don't skimp on the thyme and sage, which is what seasons my turkey.

        DH will eat this out of the pan with a spoon as if it was soup.

        1. I like to add the cooked chopped gizzards and liver to the gravy, made the classical way; with sage and thyme, a bit of lemon and a few garlic cloves simmered in the turkey stock. Brandy and heavy cream finish it off.

          1. I think the key is in the stock.

            I always make sure I've made a good stock from the carcass of a free-range chicken. I do this well in advance and freeze it. Then it's just the pan juices, a bit of flour and the stock - finished with a good splash of dry sherry to give it a final lift.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Harters

              I agree the key is in the stock, which I also make ahead, but from turkey wings and necks (available cheap around here in the supermarket), plus the usual aromatics, caramelized in a hot oven before putting into the stockpot. The stock should be richly gelatinous and your gravy will be scrumptious. (Was interested to read the OP's separate spatchcocked turkey report.)

            2. Good turkey stock is what makes my gravy special. It is cooking away on the stove as I type. It is made from whatever turkey parts are available at the market and the usual vegetables and seasonings. I will freeze it until needed, which is a day or two before the big day. At that time I will make the gravy using the pan drippings from last year's bird, which have resided in my freezer in a glass container since last Thanksgiving. Also, a goodly slug of dry sherry makes a world of difference to the finished product, in my opinion. Making the gravy a day or two ahead takes so much of the pressure off me at the time of the dinner. I always found it so hard to make the gravy when I was trying to get everything else on the table for 16 or more people.

              7 Replies
              1. re: jmnewel

                One more vote for stock being the key. I generally make a brown turkey stock--chop up the meat/bones into, say, 1" pieces. I usually use the wings (all of them) and the neck for this. Brown these in some hot oil until nice and brown--the browner, the better. Once the turkey pieces are browned, toss in the carrot, celery, and onion and saute them until the onion starts to brown. Then add in the seasonings and water to cover and cook for several hours.

                1. re: jmnewel

                  Hum. Dry sherry sounds like a very good addition. I made a huge batch of unsalted brown turkey stock so I have that covered.

                  1. re: JudiAU

                    I've purchased a dry sherry a few times before from the local wine shop, but it's always for only one use. Do you all just have your whole bottle go to waste as I usually do, or is there something else to use it with.

                      1. re: hpman247

                        Sherry is a good addition to many sauces and stir-fries. An opened bottle will be good for quite some time.

                        1. re: hpman247

                          It keeps quite well on the shelf, once opened. When sautéing mushrooms, add a splash just before they are done and then let the liquid boil away. Excellent. Also good with a sauté of mushrooms, and sliced celery. Add frozen peas, a bit of thyme, fresh or dried, and a splash of dry sherry. Cover and cook about 3 minutes, or until the peas are done to your liking. I use dry sherry a lot in cooking.

                      2. re: jmnewel

                        Me too, making a rich stick ahead of time let's you concentrate on building layers of flavor without the pressure of t-day. I put a Parmesan rind in the stock pot for more complexity. I also let the stock pot simmer overnight to break down the bones completely.

                      3. pureeing (sp?) the liver which has been fried in butter is how my mom always got very rich, much coveted gravy, which I always had to struggle to keep my spoon out of :D

                        1. 1. A double stock. Make a brown chicken stock well ahead of time. Then use it to make a brown turkey stock using extra turkey necks and wings, which always seem to be available at the store. Use a little tomato paste in the turkey stock.
                          2. Brown roux made with a mixture of butter and turkey fat from the pan. If you're not a fan of roux, use arrowroot instead of cornstarch as the liaison agent.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: carbonaraboy

                            Why do you like arrowroot instead of conrstarch? I'm just curious, having had very limited exposure to arrowroot; I think I might have used it once or twice years ago. I know it doesn't break down with time like cornstarch, but are there other reasons you like it as a thickener?;-)

                            1. re: bushwickgirl

                              I like arrowroot because I think cornstarch-thickened sauce is a little gummy in texture and taste to me. Arrowroot also gives a nice sheen to the sauce. I want to say it takes less arrowroot than cornstarch to achieve the same consistency, but I may be wrong about that. Arrowroot just seems to be more neutral.

                              Make a thick slurry with arrowroot (water or stock) and add a little at a time. It will thicken the sauce almost immediately so you can proceed slowly an get just the right thickness.

                          2. I use red wine (something robust) along with double stock. It's wonderful.

                            1. Pan juices -- deglaze the roasting pan to get every bit of the caramelized bits by making your gravy in the roasting pan. Potato- and/or onion-cooking water adds body and flavor. Supplement it with broth made from the neckbones & aromatics while the turkey roasts. And the best of all -- a tip from Shirley O. Corriher's mother -- reserve a handful of the prepared stuffing to soak in the pan juices and get whirled in as the binder/thickener.

                              It's nothing short of fabulous.

                              Then there's this tip from Alton Brown: keep your backup gravy in a thermos warmed by rinsing it out with boiling water.

                              1. Must start with a good bird.

                                Deglaze with a combo of white wine and cognac.

                                After deglazing, reserve the liquid in a separate pot and let cool until fat separates. Skim off fat.

                                Use a deep cast iron skillet to make the gravy -- i.e. pan drippings, stock, roux, etc.

                                1. Roast turkey on a "rack" of whole carrots and halved apples.
                                  After roasting, remove turkey and drain off fat, leaving other pan drippings, carrots and apples.
                                  Puree using immersion blender. Done.
                                  No stock. No flour and water.
                                  Best gravy I ever had. And I'm a gravy fan.

                                  Turkey is slathered with a paste of caramelized garlic, rosemary and butter before roasting,
                                  so that affects the flavor of the pan drippings some.

                                  1. 1. Start with a good stock - roast spare turkey parts, buy a few extra wings, giblets and veggies till golden, do this a couple days in advance
                                    2. I thicken with potato starch, much more refined taste than cornstarch, don't have to dissolve in cold water
                                    3. Secret ingredient is a couple tablespoons of cognac or brandy, this makes everything taste good!