Make Ahead

Turn Gravy Up a Notch With a Touch of Umami (And No Pan Drippings)

November 16, 2017

Thanksgiving is a gravy lover’s dream. If it weren’t already a national holiday, people like us could easily declare it National Gravy Day. Whether your gravy is used to top turkey, drown mashed potatoes, or drench stuffing, it’s pretty safe to say that no Thanksgiving meal is complete without enough gravy to float your gravy boat.

Most good gravies rely on the grizzly bits that collect along the bottom of your turkey roasting pan for that rich, deep turkey flavor. But that also means you’re committing to making gravy after your turkey is roasted. Like, when all your guests have arrived, had a few glasses of wine, and started wondering when—if ever—dinner is going to hit the table. (Everyone just chill and have another cheese sable, please!) Thankfully (hehe), this stress-relieving, pan dripping–free sauce can be made a day or two ahead of time and is just as tasty as the day-of stuff. You can (and should) spend less time cooking and more time clinking.

My secret to flavorful, make-ahead gravy is starting with a base of bacon. Put a few slices in a pan and let it render low and slow until the bacon is crispy, the fat has all melted out, and those toasty, tasty clumps start to gather at the bottom of the pan. Voila, you've got your pre-bird brown bits. (Bonus: You’ve got yourself some crispy bacon for tomorrow’s sandwich...or right now's snack.) Next, remove the bacon and add some aromatics to perfume the bacon fat. Once the herbs are crispy and the garlic is bronzed, remove them too and use that yummy, flavorful fat to make the greatest gravy of all time.

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You may notice that this recipe also calls for tamari (among other wonderful things). The briny, aged soy sauce gives this gravy that special oomph of flavor that drippings would normally add. Not to mention, a few splashes make your gravy the perfect shade of brown.

Sprinkle herbs over me before serving. Photo by Mark Weinberg

Here's one more tip: Anytime I'm making a dish ahead of time, I add in some fresh herbs just before serving to awaken the flavor and give it that "I just made this" look. It's way less messy than scraping the brown bits off the bottom of a roasting pan. But hey, if you want to pretend like you just whipped this up out of turkey drippings, alone in the kitchen with a glass of wine, while you were actually just chopping up some parsley, that can be our little secret.

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Grant Melton is an Emmy Award-Winning producer, recipe developer and food writer. His favorite food is chocolate chip cookies (with salt.)

1 Comment

AntoniaJames November 16, 2017
Grant, this is so helpful. Thank you.
I already have my "make-ahead gravy" in the freezer (bought wings and a neck a few weeks ago at Whole Foods), but hey, you can never have too much gravy, so I'm going to make a batch of this, too. I'm thinking a few dried mushrooms, soaked and chopped finely, with the soaking liquid added would be a nice touch too, for an additional 30 seconds of "work." And hooray for the bonus here: bacon will be made-ahead for the holiday French toast breakfast, and for crumbling into the parmesan breadcrumbs on our fennel gratin. Bravo. ;o)