While juking through the busy lanes at Publix today, I saw (once again) one of the most disturbing culinary evils of Thanksgiving. Of course, I'm talking about the people who were busy grabbing packages of powder gravy.
Now, I know turkey isn't the most moist or juicy bird out there. It needs plenty of lubrication but to pair it with packet gravy is just simply wrong. I mean you've spent 3 - 4 hours roasting the damn bird but you're going to serve it with synthetic and essentially crap that even Sandra Lee doesn't use? It's like having tofurkey for Thanksgiving, no Macy's parade and the Lions actually winning a football game. It's wrong man, way wrong. Fear not my friends for I'll guide you step by step on making your own turkey stock and preparing that delicious, turkey gravy just in time for Thanksgiving.
Ever since my family discovered fried turkey, we've essentially stopped roasting our own. This doesn't mean we're stuck with that horrid packet gravy though, oh no. We're going to make our own stock and eventually gravy that even the culinarily impaired (like myself) can make. This method is by no means of professional standard. It's an improvisation off of the Les Halles Cookbook and it will surely get you thrown out of Thomas Keller's kitchen if you made stock like this. Still interested in making this easy, foolproof stock? Alright, let's get started...
Buy some turkey wings, thighs, necks or bones. Today, I used turkey wings and necks but any combination will do. Place these suckers in a roasting tray with onions, carrots and celery in a 2:1:1 ratio (by volume), garlic heads, black peppercorns and herbs. Season with salt, pepper and drizzle everything with olive oil. Toss in a preheated 350 degrees oven for 1 - 1.5 hours until everything's roasted. I add in tomato paste also to darken the stock even further but you don't have to do this.
(turkey and vegetables leftover after straining)
After everything's roasted, place everything in a large stock pot (including any delicious juices that have accumulated on the bottom) and fill the pot with cold water until everything's just covered. Simmer, do not boil, for 1 - 2 hours and skim off any gunk that floats to the top (I did this step in between commercial breaks). Eventually, you'll be left with a dark, somewhat clean turkey stock. When you think you've skimmed off enough impurities, pour the stock through a sieve to catch any further impurities. Strain as many times as you want. You now have a beautiful, fragrant, dark turkey stock that's ready to be made into gravy the day before or of Thanksgiving.
Not only can this be made a few days in advance, as it cools in the fridge, you can skim off any fat that may arise giving you a cleaner stock. The basic formula for turkey gravy is a 1:1:1 ratio between stock (in cup), butter (in tablespoon) and flour (in tablespoon). Make a roux first by combing the flour and butter in a pan and once it cooks out, whisk in the stock. Season with salt and pepper (extremely important!) and reduce for 10 - 20 minutes until at your desired consistency. Toss in fresh herbs like sage, oregano and thyme if you want. If you really want to impress people, make a turkey demi. I combine 4 cups of turkey stock with 1 cup of red wine and shallots and let that reduce for awhile until it coats the back of a spoon. Mix a little bit of this stuff with the gravy to make your family go nuts or stash it away until Christmas by freezing it. Now, wasn't that easy and tastier than that disgusting packet gravy?