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Recipes and Stories

24 November 2022: Mastering Thanksgiving VIII—The Gravy

Turkey Pan Gravy, here thickened with a roux made from flour and the turkey fat


It's none of my business what kind of gravy you serve today. Whether you add wine, include the giblets and add chopped boiled eggs, or thicken it with a roux or butter is up to you. But here's how to make that gravy silky-smooth and delicious. You will need a roasting pan with a heavy enough bottom to withstand direct heat, a degreasing pitcher (fat separator), and preferably a flat whisk, although for the roux-thickened gravy you can manage with a wooden spoon.


The pan will be exposed to direct heat so that you can deglaze it, that is, get all the delicious cooking residue into your gravy. A degreaser quickly and effortlessly separates all that fat that turkeys produce so that your gravy isn't greasy. A flat whisk is ideal for stirring a roux or butter liaison, especially a shallow pan.


Two types of gravy follow. The first is pretty much the kind that most of us make today, with a roux (a thickener of flour dissolved in fat). The second is the really old fashioned kind, that's bound by the natural thickening of reduction and by a satiny butter liaison or thickening. If your family goes through a lot of gravy, use the first recipe; it yields more volume. If they're a little more restrained and you're feeling elegant, try the second one.


Old Fashioned Pan Gravy

Makes about 4 cups


The pan juices from Roast Turkey, left in the pan

1 cup Madeira, Marsala, or medium-dry sherry (optional)

2 cups Turkey Broth (3 if not using wine)

3 tablespoons instant blending flour (such as Wondra)

Cooked giblets from the turkey, diced (optional)

1-2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and diced (optional)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt and whole black pepper in a mill


1. Pour off but reserve the pan juices into degreasing pitcher. Let them settle. Meanwhile, put the roasting pan over direct, medium high heat.


2. Add the wine or 1 cup broth and bring to boil, stirring and scraping to loosen the cooking residue. Let it boil 1 minute and pour it off into a measuring cup or if there's room into the degreasing pitcher.


3. Spoon 3 tablespoons of fat from top of the roasting juices and return them to the pan. With a flat whisk or wooden spoon, stir in the instant blending flour until smooth and cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly and beginning to toast. Slowly stir in the deglazing liquid, then add the pan drippings, stirring constantly and stopping when fat reaches pitcher's spout. Gradually stir in the broth and bring it to a simmer, still stirring.


4. Simmer until thickened, stirring often, until it's thickened about 3-4 minutes. If adding the giblets and egg, stir them in, let it come back to a simmer, and cook another minute. Turn off the heat and swirl or whisk in butter until incorporated. Taste and adjust seasonings and serve.


Old Fashioned Madeira Pan Gravy


Here the proteins in the gravy and the finishing butter liaison form a natural thickening without the sometimes pasty quality that flour can impart. The one disadvantage here is that it doesn't make quite as much gravy and the butter liaison won't hold, so you have to make it at the last minute and serve it immediately. If you want the giblets in it, add them before the butter liaison.


You'll need a flat whisk for this.


Makes about 2 cups, serving 8


The pan juices from Roast Turkey, left in the roasting pan

1 cup Madeira (Marsala or medium-dry sherry also work nicely with turkey)

2 cups homemade Turkey Broth

3-6 tablespoons unsalted butter (depending on how rich you like it.


1. Pour off but reserve the pan juices into a degreasing pitcher and let the fat separate to the top. Put the roasting pan over direct, medium high heat.


2. Add the wine or 1 cup of the broth and bring it to a boil, stirring and scraping to loosen the fond or cooking residue. Let it boil 1 minute and add the remaining broth. Bring to boil and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 to 8 minutes.


3. Reduce the heat to medium and slowly whisk in the reserved pan juices with a flat whisk. Bring to simmer and simmer gently until it has lightly thickened, about 2 to 4 minutes. Turn off the heat and with a flat whisk gradually whisk in the butter until incorporated. Taste and adjust seasonings. Immediately pour into a warm gravy boat and serve.

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