Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Two Methods to Make Great Turkey Gravy

Rich Turkey Stock

Lumpy Gravy? No Way!

Too many people fear making gravy; fear having lumps. It just isn't that hard, folks! Even without any fancy gadgets, a completely silky smooth gravy is easy to make. One of the most important ingredients is the stock used to make the gravy, as this is where the best flavor will come from. See my last blog about making your own delicious, Rich Turkey Stock. I hope by the end of this blog, you will feel confident about making your own gravy.

I am sorry about the lack of photos in this blog. I have never given a thought to taking step-by-step photos while making gravy. I will try and remedy this while making my gravy this holiday, but for now, explanations will have to suffice.

The Roux Method

There are at least a couple of ways to easily make gravy. The first is the "roux" method. Roux is a French word, pronounced "roo", rhymes with "too". A roux is a mix of 1 part fat to 1½ parts flour, mixed together over heat until of a sandy consistency, for a "light" roux (there are other colors of roux, but that subject is for another time). At this point a cool liquid is added. It is best to take the roux off the heat for the first addition of liquid, while it is whisked to blend completely smooth. With continuous whisking, back over heat, the remaining liquid can be added safely, while it is heated through and the raw flour taste is cooked out, about 15 minutes. Add salt as needed. Start with 1½ teaspoon of salt per quart of stock used. Taste and adjust if needed.

If you are unsure what amount of fat, flour and stock is needed to make gravy thicken properly, go by this rule of thumb: 1½ tablespoons fat and 2 tablespoons + ½ teaspoon of flour will make a roux to thicken about 1 cup of stock. If you want 4 cups of gravy, start with 6 tablespoons fat and 9 tablespoons of flour to make the roux, then allow about 4 cups (1 quart) of cool, or cold, stock.

What if I have Pan Drippings?

If you made your stock ahead of time, as I have, and on the day of the holiday you will be roasting the turkey, there will be pan drippings. These drippings, slowly caramelizing in the bottom of the roaster, are like gold. Use a baster or a ladle and scoop out all those delicious drippings into a bowl or measuring cup. Allow the cup to set for a few minutes to allow the fat to rise to the top. If you own one of those measuring cups that drains off the actual juices while leaving the fat behind, even better. However you manage it, separate the fat from the drippings. Take the drippings and add them right to your stock. Doesn't matter if the stock is cold in the fridge. Just add them in. Doesn't mater if you are using store-bought stock. Mix these precious drippings into the stock because it cannot but make the flavor better.

Making the Gravy

Now, as for the fats, these will be great to make the roux for the gravy. You can measure out the amount of fat you need, as noted above. To thicken 1 quart of stock, start with 6 tablespoons of fat (use the turkey fat, or substitute butter, oil, bacon grease) in a hot saucepan. When the fat of choice is melted, add in the 9 tablespoons of flour, stirring while the flour begins to sizzle. Unless you want to spend the time cooking the roux down to a darker color (at which point it has less thickening power), all you need to do is get the fat and flour to a point where they are sandy looking in the pan. Remove the pan from the heat, add in about 1 to 1½ cups of the cool or cold stock (with the drippings added). Whisk continually until the mixture is completely homogeneous. Set the pan on the heat again, whisking constantly, and slowly add in the remaining cool or cold stock. Continue to whisk as the gravy begins to thicken. Once the gravy is boiling and thickened, lower heat to the barest simmer and cook for about 15 minutes more, stirring occasionally. To recap:

Making Gravy with Roux

  1. Melt 6 tablespoons fat in a medium saucepan.
  2. Add 9 level tablespoons flour.
  3. Cook until the two ingredients are combined and sandy looking.
  4. With pan OFF heat, add in 1 to 1½ cups of cool or cold stock.
  5. Whisk briskly to combine the cool stock with the roux.
  6. Return the pan to heat and whisking constantly, add the remaining 2½ to 3 cups of cool or cold stock.
  7. Whisk constantly until the gravy has thickened.
  8. Add in about 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and whisk in. Taste for seasoning.
  9. Allow the gravy to simmer very slowly, whisking occasionally for 15 minutes more.
  10. Yields about 5 cups of gravy.

The "No-Added-Fat" Method for Lump-Free Gravy

Tupperware Quick Shake Container
To be perfectly honest, I have never once, ever, measured how to make gravy this way. I can only say I have done this a lot over the years, particularly when dieting and eschewing those "dreaded" fats. In this case, place your stock into a saucepan and bring to a low boil. 

For this method, it is great to have one of those Tupperware Quick-Shake Containers. It makes relatively quick work of shaking together a liquid with flour or cornstarch. Even if you do not have one of these handy gadgets, all you need, at minimum, is a fork, a measuring cup or bowl and a strainer that will set over your pot. Preferably, you will have a whisk. I usually start out with about ¾ to 1 cup of cold liquid (water, milk, stock) and add in about ½ to ¾ cup flour or slightly less than this amount of cornstarch. Once added, if using the Tupperware container, set the little whisking disc in place, press the cover on, making sure the pour spout is sealed closed and shake the heck out of the mixture. If the Quick-Shake container is not part of your kitchen, at very least, use a fork to whisk the dry ingredients into the wet, or use a whisk. There will be more lumps in the mixture this way, but this is still no problem. 

Set a strainer over your near-boiling pot of stock and be ready with a whisk. Pour in a little of the thick flour (or cornstarch, in which case it will not be thick) mixture into the strainer and immediately begin to whisk. The mixture will begin to thicken quickly, so it is easy to see whether you have added enough of the liquid/flour mixture. If it is not thick enough, pour more of the flour/cornstarch mix into the strainer and whisk quickly, noting how the thickening looks. If still not thick enough, do this a third time. I know you sort of feel like being an octopus at this time would be helpful, but maybe a spouse or significant other might lend that third hand, either to whisk the pot, or hold the strainer. It has been an extremely rare occasion when I have had to mix up a little more of the liquid and flour mixture because the gravy was not thickened enough. If your stock was unsalted, add in 1 or 1½ teaspoons of salt and stir well. Taste and add more if needed. To recap:

Making Gravy with No-Added-Fat

  1. Place 4 cups stock into a saucepan and bring to boil.
  2. In a Quick-Shake container or a bowl, whisk together approximately 1 cup liquid (water, milk, stock) with ½ to ¾ cup flour (or slightly less if using cornstarch). Whisk these ingredients as smooth as possible, but don't stress over it.
  3. Set a strainer over the boiling stock in the pot.
  4. Pour in a part of the flour mixture and whisk the pot quickly.
  5. Note how thick the stock is. If it needs more thickening, repeat step 4.
  6. If it still needs thickening, repeat step 4 again.
  7. Add about 1 to 1½ teaspoons salt, or to taste. 

Gilding the Lily

Though the gravy at this point should taste very good, there are myriad tricks and tips to building even more flavor into your gravy. Long ago I bought a little tin of truffle powder. This came from the little shavings of truffles and contributes the true flavor of truffle. On NO account should you use one of those "oil of truffle" things out there. Heaven only knows what is with that stuff, but it tastes just awful and would completely ruin the gravy. If you are so lucky as to have truffles or truffle powder, go for it.

Another great way to add flavor is using dried mushrooms, such as dried shiitakes. You can whirl 3 or 4 of these in a spice grinder until you have a good amount of powder. Strain the remaining lumps (there will be some!) and add this powder it to the stock and cook for a bit to release the flavor.

The addition of about ½ cup of a blue-veined cheese such as Gorgonzola, can really heighten the flavor of the gravy without going overboard into "too much." Stir in the crumbled cheese and allow it to melt. Depending on your holiday theme, other cheeses could be substituted. In this case, be careful with salting the gravy, as cheese is sometimes very salty. 

Worcestershire sauce will add zip. Soy Sauce will lend intriguing flavor, but again be careful with too much salt. Fresh ground black pepper is a great flavor enhancer. 

And finally, if for some reason your gravy is too pale for your taste, a tiny splash of Kitchen Bouquet will give wonderful rich color. Kitchen Bouquet is very strongly colored, so be very careful, particularly with turkey gravy, or it will look like you are serving beef gravy. If Kitchen Bouquet is not a part of your pantry, instant coffee powder will add some color, but be careful using too much. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.