When R.B. was a kid he never got enough Thanksgiving gravy (or enough dark meat). The holiday gravy boat was too small for 7 or 8 diners, and if he was downstream from his older brother he was out of luck. He did get plenty of thin slices of dried out breast, however, and at the Irish-Catholic dinner table in the 1960s and 70s one knew the consequences of appearing ungrateful.
So, I make a big batch and it makes him happy. We’re even freezing it early this year so we don’t have to make it on the big day.
Instead of canned or cartoned broths, make your own turkey broth in a crock pot. It’s a cinch, especially when you cut your turkey in half before you roast it like we do. Laying flat on a baking sheet the breast meat is always moist, the cooked bird is easier to carve, and a regular oven can roast three 10 – 12 pound birds at the same time. Plus, we love crusty southern cornbread dressing so much we can’t be restricted to the internal cavity of a turkey.
In a large crock pot combine turkey backs, necks, hearts, and kidneys (no liver) with onion, garlic, parsley stems, celery, bay leaves, and plenty of water and let it simmer all day or overnight. Drain off the solids, cool, and it’s done. If you want to make a batch of broth in advance, buy some turkey wings and use those.
For the gravy, think about the 2:2:1 ratio for medium white sauce (two tablespoons flour: two tablespoons butter: 1 cup milk). The white sauce ratio is too thick for gravy, so decrease the ratio to 1 1/2 tablespoons each of fat and flour to 1 cup of broth. You’re swapping the butter for turkey drippings and the milk for turkey broth.
When the turkey is roasted, pour all the drippings into a cup. Let the fat rise to the top and skim it off with a spoon. Place the fat drippings in a large sauce pan and heat it up. Add the same amount of flour and stir for a couple of minutes. Now add the broth and the turkey juices left in the cup. I add a little wine — Maderia, sherry, or vermouth. And the cut-up giblets from the broth. Stir until silky and slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper, thyme, marjoram, and maybe a little sage. That’s it. You’ve got a big (or small, just decrease the amounts according to the magic ratio) batch of gravy.
- 3/4 cup roasted turkey drippings
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 7 cups turkey broth
- 1 cup Madeira, sherry, vermouth or white wine
- Dried thyme, sage, or marjoram
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Place the drippings in a large saucepan and whisk in the flour. Cook over medium heat a minute or two until bubbly and creamy.
- Add the broth and wine. Bring to a boil and simmer until silky and slightly thickened. Simmer a few minutes.
- Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme or a teaspoon or two of dried thyme leaves, marjoram, and/or sage.
- Taste for salt and adjust as necessary. Add black pepper, to taste.