The holiday season is here! That means lots of big family dinners, flocks of roasted turkeys – and gallons of gravy.
This last gives many people pause. I learned this at age twenty one, when a group of young and broke friends bought a couple of whole chickens on sale, and roasted them for a budget dinner party. When the chickens came out of the oven, I said, “Look at those nice drippings. Would anyone like it if I made gravy?”
My friends stared at me, mouths agape. “You… know how to make gravy?!” They couldn’t have looked more shocked had I asked, “Would anyone like it if I transmuted these base metals into gold?”
I told them quite truthfully that making the gravy had been my job by age six. Making gravy was quite literally child’s play. Yet just today my darling friend Tonya told me that she finds gravy maddeningly hard to get right. So let me give you a few pointers, to help make your gravy a river of creamy delight, instead of greasy, runny, or lumpy.
It’s Not Your Grandma’s Old Lumpy Gravy
I grew up on flour-thickened gravy, and will tell you how it’s done, though it’s high carb, gluten-bearing, and otherwise evil. Frankly, I’m just showing off. I am not a fan of the “pan gravy” method, where you cook flour in the grease in the pan, then add liquid. It’s harder to gauge the quantity of thickener this way, and you’re also more likely to end up with greasy gravy. I prefer the “flour paste” method.
Dana Carpender’s Low-Carb Gravy Recipe
First, the giblets. I’m a fan of giblet gravy, but many inexperienced cooks have no idea what to do with those innards. Stop throwing them away! Consider this your opportunity to get some organ meats into your diet painlessly.
You’ll find the turkey neck, heart, gizzard, and liver inside the body cavity of the turkey. Before you roast your turkey, pull ’em out, and put all of them but the liver in a saucepan. Cover with water, and bring to a simmer. Let them simmer for an hour. Then add the liver, turn off the burner, cover the pan, and let the whole thing cool.
When cool, fish your cooked giblets out of the pan. Pull the meat off the neck and chop it up. Trim the gristle off the gizzard, and dice up the meat, along with the heart and the liver. Put all of this back in the broth in the saucepan until it’s time to make your gravy.
Take your roasted turkey (or roast beef or leg of lamb or whatever) out of the roasting pan, and set it on a platter to rest for 20 minutes while you make the gravy. This also lets the juices settle back into the meat, making for a better dinner.
Let the drippings cool a bit, then pour them into a big zipper-lock bag. Seal, tilt the bag, and let the grease rise to the top. Snip off the corner of the bag, and let the drippings run back into the roasting pan till you get to the grease, pinch the hole shut, and throw the baggie and grease away.
Now add liquid to the pan of drippings. Start with the giblet broth. Water you’ve drained off any vegetables you’ve cooked adds flavor and vitamins. Eke this out with plain water or homemade broth. Put the pan on a medium-high burner, and stir, scraping all the nice brown bits off the bottom of the pan – those brown bits are essential to the flavor. Bring to a boil.
While your proto-gravy is coming to a boil, combine flour and water in a glass measuring cup – put the water in first, then add the flour, for less lumping. Whisk this absolutely smooth before you continue! Lumps in your flour and water will become lumps in your gravy. You want this mixture to be the thickness of heavy cream.
When your flour and water are smooth, and your drippings are boiling, you’re ready to thicken your gravy. While whisking, pour in a little of the flour-and-water. Do not pour-then-whisk – whisk while you are pouring. This is essential to preventing lumps. Whisk that first addition in thoroughly, then add a little more.. The idea is to incorporate each addition of flour and water before it can cook into a lump. Stop and turn the burner to low when your gravy is just a little thinner than you want it – it’ll continue to thicken as it simmers.
I no longer use flour to thicken my gravy
I no longer use flour to thicken my gravy, though, but rather use guar, xanthan, or glucomannan, instead of flour. These flavorless soluble fibers have no digestible carbs at all. Though not traditional, they make for very good gravy. Just put your Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, or Glucomannan Powder in a salt shaker or old spice shaker and sprinkle lightly over your gravy, whisking the whole time. Once again, it is vital to whisk while adding the thickener, rather than adding the thickener and then whisking. Again, stop when your gravy is not quite as thick as you want it.
Your gravy needs seasoning! If you’ve used the vegetable water and some broth, it should already be pretty good, but you can make it better. Salt and pepper are obvious, but if your gravy isn’t quite as meaty tasting as you’d like, try a teaspoon of bouillon concentrate instead of salt. I add poultry seasoning to turkey gravy. Just a teaspoon or two of soy sauce enhances flavor without a conspicuous Asian accent. And I like to add just a hint of garlic – I halve a clove, impale it on a knife-tip, and stir the gravy with it for a minute. Again, this somehow enhances flavor without a noticeable garlic flavor.
Stir in the diced giblets, and you’re done. Put your gravy in the gravy boat, and serve. And enjoy your dinner!
© 2010 by Dana Carpender. Used by permission of the author. What do you think? Please send Dana your comments to Dana Carpender.