For the first time in a very long while, my husband, Clif, and I will not be hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our home. In fact, I can’t really remember how long it’s been since we went out for Thanksgiving, but my guess is that it has been 20 years, maybe even longer. But this year our daughter Shannon and her husband, Mike, have invited the family to their place, and so to SoPo we will go, with our dog, Liam.
Naturally, I am still cooking. I will be making green bean casserole—my recipe does not call for cream of mushroom soup or canned fried onions. I will be making pumpkin bread. I have already made the gravy, and it is tucked safely in the freezer.
Making gravy ahead of time is a curious combination of great effort and less stress. I use Julia Moskin’s recipe from the New York Times, and despite one criticism that I have, it is a terrific recipe. Basically, you buy 6 pounds of turkey legs or thighs and pretend you are making a soup. First you roast the turkey for a couple of hours, and then you make a stock where you let the turkey simmer in water for six hours. In between there is deglazing, chilling, and skimming of cooled fat, which basically means this gravy is a two-day event. But here’s the thing: This is the most delicious gravy I have ever—and I mean ever—tasted, and it can be made up to a month ahead of time, frozen, and then thawed for the big day.
Those who have hosted Thanksgiving dinner will immediately grasp the benefits of this gravy. No frantic last minute preparations while everyone is waiting, where you often get a gravy that’s not very flavorful and might be too fatty, too thick, or too thin. I will admit it. I have never made a very good gravy on Thanksgiving Day.
So despite the rigmarole involved with Moskin’s recipe, it is very much worth making. Thanksgiving comes but once a year, and while the whole process might take two days, most of it is not hands-on time. My one criticism of the recipe involves the ratio of stock to butter and flour. Moskin tells you to use 3 quarts of stock, which by my reckoning is 12 cups, and a roux of 12 tablespoons butter/turkey fat and 12 tablespoons of flour.
First of all, I never get 3 quarts of stock. This year I got 2 quarts, and this is pretty usual for me. (Perhaps I don’t add enough water to the turkey during its simmer time?) But this is somewhat irrelevant because even with 2 quarts of stock, the 12 tablespoons of roux is not enough to thicken the gravy to our liking.
I know. This sounds like an astonishing amount of fat to use, but consider the average white sauce, where the ratio is often 2 cups (half a quart) of milk to 4 tablespoons of butter and flour. While this white sauce might be a bit thicker than you would want for a gravy, it is not very much thicker. Especially not for someone like Clif, who likes soups, sauces, and gravies to be very thick.
So here is what I did this year. I used 10 tablespoons of fat—a combination of turkey fat and butter—and 10 tablespoons of flour to one quart of stock. The gravy I got was not overly thick, and not surprisingly, Clif’s comment was that even a little thicker would have been good. But the taste was utterly delicious, and I left the gravy as is with the 10 tablespoons of fat and flour. On Thursday we shall see how it thaws and heats. Will the gravy be too thick? Too thin?
I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, we wait for a wet, nasty snow storm forecasted by eager meteorologists. Will our daughter Dee make it north from New York? Will we lose our power, and if so, for how long?
Again, I’ll keep you posted.