Friday, November 11, 2011

Get on the Gravy Boat

Gravy. Some cooks are painstaking in their efforts to ladle the very best over their turkey breast and roasted garlic mashed potatoes while others take shortcuts with “Gravy Master”. At the end of the day, it’s all pretty good, but understanding the importance of veloute, a French mother sauce, and its place in truly wonderful holiday gravy makes all the difference.

When you have the tools, you have the talent. Good gravy starts with a sturdy (and flame resistant!) roasting pan. I like this one from Williams & Sonoma because it comes with the most useful accoutrements I can think of for homemade stuffing, dressings and sauces. Don’t get sticker shock when you click the link. This 5lb.-6 oz. roasting pan can cook a Butterball big enough to feed the entire cast of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It also comes with a thermometer, and V-shaped non-stick roasting rack that cooks everything faster, more thoroughly, and lets all that fatty, buttery goodness drip to the bottom of the pan for later use in your gravy.

“Veloute” is a French Mother Sauce. It Means Velvety, and it So Belongs in Your Gravy

Once your bird is cooked and you’re within an hour and a half of serving it, it’s time to start the gravy. Here’s where your French mother sauce, veloute comes in; create it, simply by melting 1 tablespoon of butter in a sauce pan with 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour. Slowly pour in 1 ¾ cup chicken broth and, using a wire whisk, gently stir the mixture to get the lumps out.

Whisking It All Together

Next, turn your attention to the pan drippings from the now finished turkey. Carefully pour said drippings into a large Pyrex cup (or something like it) and wait long enough for the fat to separate from the liquid. Once you see the obvious divide, you can remove/save the fat and pour the drippings back into the pan; be sure to scoop the fat back into the roasting pan, and add 1 cup of white wine, salt and pepper—then stir, freeing clinging bits of turkey from the bottom of the pan as you whisk away. Add the veloute you just made, once again stirring with your whisk, and in about 5 minutes the mixture thickens into a beautiful thick gravy!

For My Own Twist on a Truly Savory Gravy…

Now that I’ve covered a classic gravy recipe that any purist can appreciate, it’s time for a truly Savory Gravy from my kitchen; you'll see it in the turkey recipe included here. Hint: I use pan drippings from a bird that’s been stuffed with pieces of orange and apple (try my Herb and Sherry Roasted Turkey recipe) and count on the turkey’s skin, rubbed with a heady blend of a half-dozen herbs and drizzled with Sherry as it slow roasts, to make incredible pan drippings that almost stand on their own as gravy.

But you’re not done yet.

The turkey’s long since removed neck and giblets need to simmer, along with celery, parsley and onions—and added to the pan drippings. Soon everything will come together in a complex blend of fruit, juicy meat and fragrant herbs.

For the Vegetarian, I recommend a Red Wine Mushroom Gravy

This mushroom gravy has been carefully modified for this blog with a vegetable broth, and—because of its white (aka “button”) mushrooms has the earthy, meaty texture of the most savory gravy one can imagine…and I hope you’ll enjoy it with the divinely garlicky mashed potatoes, I included with this post.

Feast well, my friends!

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