Make Ahead

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

November  4, 2010
Author Notes

This recipe makes a richly flavorful gravy, but it requires you to plan ahead, and invest a few minutes in creating the deeply flavored stock that is an essential component of this gravy. This method of making stock also yields some exceptionally tasty pan drippings, so it’s useful when grilling a turkey, or roasting one that’s been brined. You need the oven for the first steps of the stock, and then the stock needs to chill, so to avoid a traffic jam in your kitchen and unnecessary delays, plan to make it a day or two before you need it for the gravy. You can also make it further in advance, and freeze it, but the drippings from the stock-making process are really much better when fresh. If you like more herbs, add them. If you don’t like ham or pork products, a tiny piece of smoked turkey can be used instead, or you can add a few mushrooms when you add the vegetables to roast. However you decide to make it ... enjoy!! ;o) —AntoniaJames

  • Cook time 2 hours
  • Makes 1 quart
  • The Stock
  • 1 or 2 turkey wings, or one turkey back and neck
  • 2 ounces Black Forest Ham or 1 ounce prosciutto (substitute smoked turkey if you don’t like pork)
  • Grapeseed or olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • 1 carrot, cut into three or four pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, skin still on after chopping, or 6 whole scallions, each coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into three or four pieces
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme (approximately 1 tablespoon of leaves), or any other herbs you like. Sage + rosemary is a nice combination.
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon Cognac or other brandy (optional)
  • The Gravy -- Makes one quart
  • Pan drippings (reserved from the roasted parts used to make the stock + from your roasted turkey, if you roasted, and didn't brine it) (See note below.)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3-4 tablespoons Wondra flour (Cake flour also works reasonably well, if you don’t have Wondra.)
  • 1 quart of stock, from the recipe above, or some reasonable homemade (and NOT store-bought) alternative.
  • 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, or more or less, to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup dry white wine (or 1/3 cup Madeira)
In This Recipe
  1. The Stock
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. In a roomy roasting pan, drizzle a tablespoon or so of oil. Rub the turkey parts in it and sprinkle very lightly with a small pinch of salt. (If adding pan drippings from a brined turkey, omit this step.)
  4. Roast for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the ham or prosciutto into ½ inch squares.
  5. After the wings have been in the oven for ten minutes, add the prosciutto to the pan. Add about a few tablespoons of water, too, and tip the pan to moisten its entire bottom. Set the timer for 20 minutes.
  6. After 20 minutes, add the vegetables. (See my note below as to why you shouldn't put everything in together.) Turn over the turkey parts and stir the ham bits, to loosen them from the pan, if they are stuck to it. If the pan seems dry, add a few more tablespoons of water and tilt the pan as you did before.
  7. Cook for another 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put 2 ½ quarts of cold or room temperature water in a large stockpot.
  8. When the turkey parts and vegetables have finished roasting, remove the wings from the pan with a slotted spoon and put them in the stock pot. Remove the vegetables and set aside. Get all the bits of ham up, or as many as you can, and add them to the stock pot, along with the wine.
  9. Deglaze the roasting pan with the Cognac and a tablespoon or two of water. Pour the pan drippings and whatever liquid remains into a small container. Scrape as many of the little bits as you can get off the bottom. I use a firm spatula for this. Cover and refrigerate until you make the gravy.
  10. Pour a cup or so of hot water into the pan, scrape it well, one last time, and pour that liquid into the stock pot.
  11. Add the thyme branches (or other herbs) and another tiny pinch of salt.
  12. Bring just to a boil, then turn down immediately, and simmer for at least an hour. Two hours is better. Either way, about 45 minutes -- and no more -- before you plan to strain the stock, add the roasted vegetables. Don't add them before because, according to Michael Ruhlman, vegetables break down in cooking in such a way that causes them to absorb the liquid. You'll leave too much stock in the vegetables that are eventually strained and discarded.
  13. Strain and then return the stock to the pot. Reduce it to about one quart by boiling it hard for as long as necessary. Cool the stock to room temperature. (I do this by putting it into a glass Mason jar, then setting it into a pan of cold water in my sink, stirring and refreshing the water periodically.) Then refrigerate until ready to begin making the gravy. It will be very thick and probably gelatinous once it cools. Scrape off any fat that's risen to the top before using the stock for your gravy.
  14. N.B. Please resist the temptation to include the vegetables with the turkey or chicken parts when you first put the pan in the oven. If you add the vegetables at the beginning, with the meat, the moisture in them creates steam, and releases liquid into the pan. That steam and liquid prevent the turkey or chicken parts from browning properly and from creating thick, flavorful pan juices.
  1. The Gravy -- Makes one quart
  2. Remove and reserve or discard the fat from the cooled stock, and then gently warm the stock. Keep it warm and close by as you do the next step. (I typically warm it in the microwave in a heat-proof glass measuring cup that has a pouring spout.)
  3. In a small pan over medium heat (or in an appropriate vessel, in your microwave), reduce the wine by 1/2 of its volume.
  4. Cook the butter over medium flame until the butter is melted. Whisk it well to combine. Add the flour, continuing to whisk all the while. (See note below about toasting the flour -- a step that I highly recommend, but which is optional.) The butter and flour mixture (a "roux") will soon look like a somewhat thick paste. This happens quickly.
  5. If you plan to add pan drippings from your roasted turkey, pour them into a metal bowl, scraping up all the hard bits, and put in the freezer to separate as much fat as possible. (See note below about brining, however.)
  6. As soon as the paste is thick and golden, slowly and continuously pour in the warmed stock over medium heat, whisking vigorously the whole time. It will look lumpy and thick, but don’t worry. It will smooth itself out as you add the rest of the stock, provided that the stock is warm, you stream it in constantly, and whisk without stopping.
  7. Add the reserved pan drippings from when you roasted the wings and/or back and neck. Then add the Worcestershire sauce, a quarter teaspoon at a time, tasting before adding more, and the reduced wine. Stir well over medium-low heat for about a minute. See note below about using the drippings from your roast turkey, which is optional.
  8. Check for salt and correct. Add freshly ground pepper to taste.
  9. Enjoy!! ;o)
  10. N.B. If you have brined your turkey, consider using just a few spoonfuls of drippings, added one at a time and tested after doing so, before you check for salt. This allows you to use at least some of the roasted juices. I add salt very sparingly under these circumstances, to allow me to do this. But with the rich stock made from roasted wings and necks, the pan drippings really shouldn't be necessary. (See the next note, please.)
  11. If, on the day your roast the turkey, you (a) have pan drippings you can use, and (b) are inclined to use them in the gravy, do the following: Pour off all of the pan drippings from your turkey into a metal bowl, scraping all of the hard bits from the pan. Put in the freezer, to allow the fat to separate. Remove the hardened fat and add to the gravy while heating, before serving.
  12. Toasting your flour makes any sauce or gravy taste really good. You can do this in a dry heavy skillet on the stove. Toast it stirring constantly, lest it burn, until it's a light brown shade and starts to smell somewhat nutty; then, remove it immediately to a small bowl, to prevent further cooking and over browning.

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Recipe by: AntoniaJames

When I'm not working (negotiating transactions for internet companies), or outside enjoying the gorgeous surroundings here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'm likely to be cooking, shopping for food, planning my next culinary experiment, or researching, voraciously, whatever interests me. In my kitchen, no matter what I am doing -- and I actually don't mind cleaning up -- I am deeply grateful for having the means to create, share with others and eat great food. Life is very good. ;o)