(Recipe from THE BIG BOOK OF SIDES; photo by Ben Fink.)
I have shared my recipe for making perfect gravy many times, all over the world. (No exaggeration: I taught a turkey class in Korea once.) There is more than one way to make this holiday essential, but my version comes from years of experimentation with different methods. I’ve settled on the “make it in the roasting pan technique with degreased drippings” technique.
The beauty of this version is that the ingredients are measured. Without measuring, perfection that can be elusive. So, set yourself up with a fat separator (the kind with the spout coming up from the bottom), a flat roux whisk, and some turkey stock…and get ready to make the best gravy you’ve ever had. My not-so-secret ingredient is bourbon. And here is a video with step-by-step instructions.
The secret to great gravy is measuring. My grandmother would simply stir flour into whatever was in the roasting pan (fat, juices, and browned bits) to make a paste, then add enough broth to thicken the mixture. She was a great lady, but her gravy was unreliable to say the least, because the amount of fat varies with every roast. Separate the fat from the juices and go from there.
- For every cup of gravy, use 1 cup of liquid (the degreased pan juices combined with an appropriate chicken or beef broth), with a roux made from 1½ tablespoons each flour and the fat from the pan. Just multiply this amount as needed. You may only want 1 cup of gravy for a roast chicken, but 2 quarts for a roast turkey. If you run out of fat from the pan, use melted butter.
- Allow about 1/3 cup of gravy per person—some people will want more, and some less, so know the appetites of your audience. It’s better to make too much gravy and have leftovers than to run out.
- A fat (also called gravy) separator is a great utensil, and even if you use it rarely, it is worth the investment. The 2-cup size is fine for chicken and duck, but for larger birds, use the 4-cup model.
- A flat whisk (also called a roux whisk) is another useful utensil, as it allows you to get into the corners of the pan, and whisks in a wider swath than a narrow whisk. If you have a nonstick roasting pan, use a silicone-coated whisk.
- During roasting, let the drippings evaporate so they brown to a deep mahogany color, as dark drippings will flavor and color the gravy. To stop them from browning too deeply and burning, add broth or water to the pan. I never need to use gravy coloring.
- Alcoholic spirits, such as bourbon, pump up the flavors of the other ingredients while adding their own flavor to a dish. All-American bourbon is the perfect fillip for this gravy, and brandy (or Cognac) is also good. Just be judicious–one or two tablespoons for every cup of gravy is enough. Too much bourbon will simply be too strong. White wine or vermouth are fine. However red wine and its derivatives (such as sweet vermouth or Port) will only give the gravy a murky color, and are not recommended.
- Big Book of Sides
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- Dinner Rolls
- I Love Meatballs
- Mad Men Food
- New York
- Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours
- Side Dishes