Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, November/December 1996. If you cook your turkey on a grid of crisscrossed carrot and celery ribs, with quartered onions, garlic cloves or heads, and fresh rosemary stuffed into the grid, you will have wonderful pan juices and caramelized roast vegetables to flavor your gravy.
The gravy recipe below is double the original recipe and makes more than 3 quarts of gravy. That is not much for a ravenous horde of gravy-loving family members. We seldom have much left over.
A couple of years ago I read a review of immersion blenders and one of the comments said, “It will change your life!” Maybe that is not quite true, but an immersion blender removes any fear of lumps in your turkey gravy. An immersion blender is a wonderful kitchen accessory for homemade gravy. Pricier immersion blenders are available but I’ve found the basic Braun immersion blender works great for me.
In recent years I make the gravy ahead of time and freeze it until Turkey Day, greatly lessening Thanksgiving Day anxiety and work. This requires roasting a turkey breast on the grid described above to get the pan of turkey drippings and roasted vegetables. (A roast chicken doesn’t give you enough drippings to flavor turkey gravy properly.) If you don’t have chicken or turkey broth on hand, you can always use Swanson Certified Organic Free Range Chicken Broth from the grocery store. Or you can make your own turkey broth.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Neck, and giblets (except liver) from the turkey
1 onion chopped, including skin
4 ½ quarts water
4 thyme branches
8 parsley stems
Salt and ground black pepper
Heat oil in soup kettle; add giblets and neck, then sauté until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add onion; continue to sauté until softened, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook until turkey and onions release their juices, about 20 minutes. Add water or chicken stock, bring to boil, then lower heat. Add herbs (and salt if necessary). Simmer, skimming any scum that may rise to surface, until broth is rich and flavorful, about 30 minutes. Strain broth ( you should have about 4 quarts).
For the thickening roux and gravy base
2 sticks butter
1 cup all-purpose flour (if turkey fat will be added, add an extra 1/4 cup)
Melt butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan (big enough to hold 3.5 quarts with room left for stirring—6-quart stockpot is ideal) over medium-low heat. Vigorously whisk in flour (the roux will froth and then thin out again.) Cook slowly, stirring fairly constantly, until nutty brown and fragrant, 10 to 15 minutes. In another pan, heat 2 and 2/3 quarts turkey broth (or 2 and 2/3 quarts of store-bought chicken broth) to simmer.
Vigorously whisk the hot broth into roux. It is helpful for someone else to gradually pour in the hot broth while you whisk. Bring just to a boil, then continue to simmer until the gravy base is thickened and very flavorful, about 30 minutes. (If you see lumps…remember that immersion blender.) Set your gravy base aside until ready to finish with pan juices and wine.
The flavoring pan juices–the key step
1 roasting pan full of caramelized meat drippings, onions, carrots, garlic heads, and herbs
2 cups dry or sparkling white wine
Remove the cooked turkey from roasting pan, then spoon out as much fat as possible, leaving caramelized herbs and vegetables. Place roasting pan over medium-high heat and mash vegetables with potato masher or wooden spoon. If drippings are not a dark brown, cook, stirring constantly, until they caramelize.
Return gravy to simmer. Add wine to pan of caramelized vegetables, scraping up browned bits with wooden spoon and boiling until reduced by about half and steam no longer smells like alcohol. Then strain pan juices into hot gravy, pressing as much juice as possible out of vegetables with wooden spoon. (You can also use a food mill with the fine disk.) Return gravy to boil. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.