Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.
Today: Gravy is spectacularly easy, and -- spoiler alert! -- even make-ahead friendly. Here's how to make it happen.
By this point in November, you're likely eyeball-deep in recipes: The one for the perfect bird, the most genius cranberry sauce, the root vegetable pie you'll carry proudly to the table, turkey or no. You've printed out this pie dough recipe (or this one, or both), and it's only a matter of time before these pies are added to the mix. You're tired. Your printer is equally so.
You deserve a Thanksgiving classic you can make without a recipe (and we're talking more than mash) -- one you can make with your eyes closed and with one hand tied behind your back. Listen up, people: This year we're winging gravy.
(The best part of all of this? Contrary to what Thanksgiving legend says, your gravy can be made ahead of time -- up to 4 or 5 days. Just make good on your turkey drippings by whisking them in right before you serve.)
How to Make Gravy Without a Recipe
1. If you're making your gravy ahead of time, skip to step 2 -- you'll do step 1 on Thanksgiving day, immediately before serving. If you're doing this whole thing last minute like a ninja, place your roasting vessel on the stove, and deglaze with a healthy splash of wine, or stock, or -- in a pinch -- water. Add aromatics like rosemary for fun. Remove from the heat and strain.
2. Make a roux. As you have previously learned, this will be the magic that thickens your gravy. Here's how it works: Melt butter, whisk in flour, cook until it's a nice, golden brown. If you're doing this on the day of while the bird rests, feel free to use some of the fat from the drippings as a base for your roux. All in all, for ten to twelve people, go with 1 stick of butter (or a half cup of fat) and a half cup of flour to 4 or 5 cups stock. If you have a cozier Thanksgiving planned, halve that.
3. When your roux is where you want it to be, whisk in the deliciousness you made in step 1. (If you're doing this in advance, just use that amazing homemade turkey stock we know you have on hand.) You want your heat around medium-low here, and adjust as necessary.
More: Can't get on board with the whole turkey thing? Make this vegan, gluten-free gravy instead.
4. Keep adding your warm, remaining liquid, and keep whisking -- hard. Remember your Aunt's lumpy gravy? Yeah, you don't want that.
5. Simmer your gravy over medium heat until it's thickened to your liking. At this point, it's very forgiving: Just add more liquid at will if you over-thicken. When it's right where you want it, season. We like to keep it simple with salt and pepper, but have also been known to whisk in a bit of soy sauce. You do you.
If you're making this ahead, let it cool before storing in the fridge, with plastic wrap snuggled against its surface, just like it'd be for pesto.
Have any gravy secrets we missed? Let us know in the comments!
We're looking for contributors! Email [email protected] and tell us the dish you make in your sleep, without a recipe.
Photos by Mark Weinberg