Mid-November is here. The ground is hard underfoot but not slippery or messy, a winning combination as far as I’m concerned. The weather is crisp but not unbearably cold, and today I’ll even be riding my bike to the food pantry. I’ll bundle up. I have a headband that will fit under my helmet. I have warm gloves. Still, I expect my cheeks will be very rosy by the time I get to the pantry, about a mile and a half away from my house.
Next week is Thanksgiving, and this year we will be celebrating it at the little house in the big woods. Oh, the flurry of cooking and cleaning that must be done! I am happy to report that the gravy is made and in the freezer. A few years ago, I came across Julia Moskin’s make-ahead gravy recipe in the New York Times, and I decided to give it a try. For me, one of the most stressful parts of the Thanksgiving meal is the gravy. It’s always rushed, done at the last minute while all the other food is cooling and languishing on the sideboard. My gravy was almost always bland, with the fat oozing to the top. I’m probably making it sound worse than it was, but I was never happy with the results.
The first year I made Julia Moskin’s gravy, a week or so before Thanksgiving, I knew my life had changed for the better. The gravy was utterly delicious, there was no fat swimming at the top, and it took so much stress out of Thanksgiving Day. Best of all, the gravy froze and thawed beautifully. It does take a long time to make—I stretch it out over two days—but very little of it is hands-on time. For those who work outside the home, a weekend would be the perfect time to make this gravy. Go on. Do it. There is still time. You can thank me afterwards.
A couple of points about the gravy, where I diverge from the recipe: I like it thicker than Moskin recommends, and so I add the stock gradually to the roux until I get a thickness I want. If there is any leftover stock, well, leftover chicken and gravy here we come. (There is a fair amount of leftover meat after making the stock, and I use this meat for stir-fries, wraps, and with gravy, if there is leftover stock.) Also, I use chicken legs rather than turkey legs. They’re usually cheaper, and on Thanksgiving Day, nobody complains that the gravy tastes like chicken rather than turkey.
As Rhonda from the blog Down to Earth has noted, the key to a successful holiday dinner is planning and delegating. I have already delegated dessert to my friends Alice and Jill. My daughter Shannon will be making the sweet potato casserole and the cranberry sauce. Next Monday, I’ll bake a bunch of Farmer Kev’s squash. Some will go into soup, and some will go into squash bread, to be made on Wednesday. The green bean casserole will be made ahead of time, and I’m thinking of making some rolls on Wednesday. We’ve stocked up on soft drinks, wine, and salted nuts.
Are we ready for the holidays, or what?