My thing this year is to make Thanksgiving’s turkey stock ahead of time, not the morning of. So it is that a few days before Thanksgiving, five turkey wings and a neck are being roasted and then simmered into brothy perfection. Aromas from the kitchen this frosty Sunday imbue the day with comfort and hints of the coming feast.
Warning: Gravy Ahead. No Detour.
Two or three quarts of stock should be enough for the dozen of us, plenty for the requisite dressing and gravy. Requisite for a reason, dressing and gravy are the heart and soul of Thanksgiving dinner. Wait a minute . . . what about the turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, Brussel’s sprouts, sweet potatoes, pumpkin? What’s not heart and soul about every precious thing on the table, including the cheese-stuffed celery sticks? OK, there are many flavors at the heart of a Thanksgiving table. Let’s just say that made from scratch stock, humble perhaps, is essential for several of the day’s star attractions.
Invest in brewing the golden nectar ahead of time. Truly, so much better than stock in a box. My mother and grandmother boiled giblets and the neck the day of and used that broth to make the most luscious turkey gravy that was finished in the pan with turkey drippings, flour and the stock. I still do that, or I try anyway. Maybe the turkeys have changed – ya think? – or I’m doing something wrong. I often don’t end up with enough drippings for making good gravy. Made-ahead stock and its skimmed off fat is delicious insurance and whatever isn’t used can go into the turkey soup later on.
May your feathers remain unruffled this day, your gravy silky smooth and may the abundance of the season, good food, love, and community be yours to savor and to share. Happy Thanksgiving.
Turkey Stock from Scratch Recipe
Stock is a culinary investment in the Thanksgiving gravy which can be made ahead or just before serving. If gravy is made ahead, you can still stir in pan drippings, minus most of the fat, just before serving. Even a few tablespoons will add unbelievable flavor.
This recipe yields about 2 1/2 quarts of stock.
Ingredients: 5 – 6# turkey wings and/or necks/ 2 large onions/ 3 carrots/ 2 celery stalks/ 4 T butter, 1 T olive oil, salt & pepper/ 2 bay leaves.
Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees/ Melt butter and olive oil in a small pan/ Place turkey pieces in a large roasting pan, brush each piece liberally with butter and oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper/ Cook for 1 hour/ Toss quartered onion, carrot and celery in a little olive oil and lay on top of turkey/ Cook for another hour/ Turkey is golden, vegetables are partly roasted/ Transfer immediately to a large stockpot, or cool, cover and finish stock later. Note: At this point I absconded the meaty portions from the turkey wings to use in a quick soup for dinner, but kept bones for the broth.
Finishing the stock: Place roasted turkey and vegetables in a large pot, cover with 3 1/2 quarts of water, 14 cups, or to cover/ Slowly bring to a simmer, add bay leaves, 1 T salt and pepper to taste/ Simmer for 2 1/2 hours with lid on, remove lid and simmer for another half an hour/ Adjust seasoning as needed/ Allow to cool slightly, strain broth through a fine sieve and reserve for gravy, dressing or soup. Save the skimmed fat for later and refrigerate. Discard turkey and veggies which have by now been *cooked to death.
Cool, strain off most of the fat, pour into containers and refrigerate or freeze until needed. Fat can easily be removed from the top of containers after several hours of refrigeration. Liquid will have been reduced and flavors intensified.
Recipe for Turkey Gravy from Scratch
Make this gravy when the turkey comes out of the oven, or several days ahead. Using stock and the following recipe, gravy can be made a day or two ahead of time. On Thanksgiving day, after the turkey has been roasted and removed from its pan, skim off fat and stir several tablespoons of pan juices into the pre-made gravy. Stir together and reheat. Additionally, juice accumulates with the carving of the turkey, add that to the gravy too.
Two or three quarts of stock makes enough gravy for a dozen, give or take; four quarts of stock enough for twenty. You want some leftover? Double the recipe.
Ingredients (serves 5 or 6): 4 – 6 C homemade turkey stock/ 4 T butter or turkey fat, or a combination of each/ 3 1/2 quarts water/ Salt & pepper to taste.
For make ahead gravy, use reserved turkey fat from the stock making if you have it, combine with butter to make 4 tablespoons, or use only butter. Make gravy in a regular sauce pan rather than the roasting pan and follow these same directions.
Directions: To make gravy directly in the roasting pan, reheat previously made stock in a sauce pan/ Remove turkey and place roasting pan over two burners turned to medium heat/ Skim off excess fat until about 4 tablespoons remain, or use reserved fat from stock making – add butter if more is needed/ Melt fat and add 1/4 C flour/ Whisk continuously for 3 or 4 minutes, until flour is cooked, caramelized bits have been scraped from the pan into the roux, and mixture is golden/ Add 1 cup of the reheated turkey stock to the roasting pan and whisk vigorously into flour mixture until smooth – this step diminishes the issue of lumps/ Gradually add 3 cups of stock – along with any other embellishments – while stirring continuously/Allow to cook for several minutes and if gravy is too thick add more stock/ Add chopped giblets if you choose, taste and adjust seasoning – some turkeys are salty and little if any salt is needed in the gravy/ Bring to a hard simmer for a few moments then turn burner down until gravy is simmering lightly.
Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes/ If a person wanted to mess with the perfection of ordinary turkey gravy, embellishments could be added mid-way through these directions, when the remaining stock is added. A bay leaf or sprig of thyme, several dried Porcini mushrooms for their flavor, a tablespoon or two of Madeira. (Bon Appetit, 11/2011).
For thicker gravy do not add flour directly to pan!/ In a small bowl make a smooth paste of 1 T softened butter and 1 T flour, then stir in 1/2 C warm stock or a little of the gravy, and mix together until smooth/ Add half of this paste to the gravy pan and whisk until incorporated/ As gravy simmers it will thicken/ Add remaining butter/flour paste for thicker gravy/ Cook for another 5 minutes.
*Some debate about whether or not to use stock-making ingredients/vegetables after the long cooking since their nutritional kick been diminished and is, hopefully, now imbued in the delicious stock. Reuse anything you’re inclined to – it certainly won’t hurt you.