The importance of Gravy at the Thanksgiving table is often overlooked and underestimated in our scramble to get everything else just perfect. The condiment that gently adds some needed moisture to the turkey and a little extra flavor to our possibly bland mashed potatoes is the quintessential comfort food that we all absolutely must have at our holiday feast. Made with the delicious fatty drippings of your cooked meat, seasonings and herbs, a perfectly made gravy is like liquid silk.
The word Gravy has different connotations for different people; for Pakistanis and Indians it's used to refer to the liquid part of a curry, here where I live in Southeast America gravy is eaten with biscuits and can be tomato based or a white gravy with sausage and/or mushrooms in it, but the most common and well known kind is the one we all eat at Thanksgiving.
The earliest known recipe for gravy seems to be in a book of British cookery written by a Mrs Beeton in 1861. Originally a treat reserved to be eaten with the Sunday family Pot Roast or on a special occasion, there was a point in time in the history of the South that gravy was actually a poor-mans food. No matter how impoverished a family, most had the resources to make and eat biscuits and often used leftover fat drippings, water and flour (with a dash of seasoning) to make some gravy as a side. Seasonal meats and vegetables were often added if they were available, everything from Okra to Oysters has been used to enhance the taste of gravy.
Eventually biscuits and gravy gained popularity and began to be featured in diner menus in the Southern States and today they are served all across the United States of America at casual dining and fine dining establishments alike.I've tried and like all varieties mentioned above but the classic gravy is my all time favorite and so easy to make. many people make it fresh, as soon as the Turkey comes out of the oven but if you like to do things ahead of time you can easily make your gravy and store it in your fridge or freezer.
There are a couple of variations to my basic recipe, especially if you're making it ahead of time and don't have fresh drippings. All of these are in the notes below and offer a few different options for the liquid base and thickening agent you can use to adapt the recipe to suit your personal preferences.
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Flour
¼ Cup Strained Turkey Drippings
2 Cups Chicken Broth
Salt and Pepper to taste
Dried or Fresh Herbs (optional)
1. Remove your Turkey and pour all the drippings through a strainer. If you have more than a quarter cup, you can adjust the quantity of the chicken broth accordingly, as long as you have 2 ¼ cups of liquid total. *Liquid should be warm when you add it to the Roux to prevent curdling*
2. Heat the butter and once its melted add the flour and stir constantly to form a paste. This is your Roux and you need to cook it for a while, till you get a nutty aroma.
3. Once your Roux is ready pour the liquid in and stir vigorously till it starts to thicken. If you pause while stirring you are likely to get some lumps.
4. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed and add any herbs at this point.
1. Your liquid base should ideally have some drippings in it. If you decide to make the gravy ahead of time this may not be possible and you will have to rely primarily on stock. Here your options are to use the giblets and neck that usually comes with the turkey and make your own stock or use a store bought one. Either option will work and to get that authentic flavor, when you reheat the gravy you can add some strained drippings just before serving.
2. When deciding what type of stock to buy I simply stick to the food group I'm working with. So for any poultry I stick to chicken stock and for any red meat I use beef stock.
3. For my thickening agent I personally prefer making a Roux as the nutty taste is worth the extra effort to me and I find the gravy has a smoother consistency this way. For the ideal Roux you need a ratio of 1:1 for your fat and flour, so if you feel the need to make your gravy thicker or thinner than the one in my recipe just keep that in mind. Sometimes you can be in a rush or just not confident enough in your cooking ability to make a roux, and in that case you can make a slurry with water and cornflour and use it as a thickener. Cornflour has twice the thickening capacity of flour so if making the slurry use half the quantity that you would if you were making a roux. For the above recipe, take 1 tablespoon Cornflour and mix it with ¼ cup of water and add it to your well heated liquid, stirring constantly till the gravy thickens.
4.Pre made gravy can be stored in the fridge for up to two days and in the freezer for up to three months and reheated before serving.You may need to reconstitute it a bit with more liquid, thickening agent and seasoning if you're defrosting it from the freezer.
5.Once the gravy thickens you may find it looks too pale and tastes a little bland. In this case, some soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce or a bouillon cube can be added to help with both the color and taste.