But not before I offer a few more turkey tips. I came across another link which may prove useful for our novice roasters. The USDA has a page entitled "Lets Talk Turkey" and it contains a wealth of information on thawing, roasting, storing and reheating turkey. Well worth a pass of the eye, even for you experts out there. While perusing the page, it occurred to me that I neglected to mention one very important thing ... be sure to remove any giblets, etc., from the cavity of your turkey prior to stuffing and or roasting it! I have no idea why they stuff all those gross things into the bellies of our birds - but failure to remove it will result in one foul fowl. Trust me, I know whereof I speak. (And I'm speaking of the first chicken I ever roasted ... then promptly pitched because it was inedible. Blech.) This is a mistake one only makes once - best to avoid it altogether. Perform a cavity search - or better yet, if you got a husband lying around, make him do it - then proceed accordingly.
Now, about that turnip ... or perhaps you call it a rutabaga? In Divaland, its a yellow turnip and it is the key to making a rich, savory gravy. Before you call me crazy, let me explain. This is an old family tradition, a secret if you will, passed down to me from my beloved Grandma Pam. Gram Pam, as we used to call her, made the very best gravy in the world and she always used the turnip cooking water as a base. Her gravy had a flavor unlike any other I'd ever had and it was the highlight of every Thanksgiving.
Like most families, we never really wrote her recipe down - but we all knew about the turnip water and we continue that tradition today. Happily for us, I've been able to replicate the taste of her outstanding gravy ... unhappily, for you, there is no recipe. And that's the case with much of the food I prepare for Thanksgiving. The gravy, the stuffing, and all of the sides are the result of me cooking on the fly - and thus difficult to capture in an exact configuration. I'll do my best, but really, we're just talking technique here.
To prepare the gravy, I use the following:
- the water saved from boiling 2 gigantic yellow turnips
- some of the reserved herb butter used in roasting the turkey
- the pan juices resulting from the roast turkey and aromatic vegetables
- some Vin Santo or brandy
- some chicken broth, if necessary
- salt, pepper, a dash of poultry seasoning and some minced fresh sage
- some all-purpose flour
- some of the rendered turkey fat
Place your roasting pan* on the burners of your stove over medium-high heat and deglaze the bottom of the pan with some Vin Santo or brandy and a bit of the turnip water. Bring the mixture to the boil and scrape up all of the browned bits with a wooden spatula. Add a bit of the left-over herb butter and the rest of the turnip water, stirring constantly to be sure to disolve all of the roasted goodness. Carefully add the separated juices from the de-fatting cup, being careful not to allow the fat into the pan. Reserve the fat for later use.
If you need more liquid, you can add some chicken broth. Use your judgement. Once the pan has deglazed, taste the gravy base for seasoning, adding some salt, pepper or some herbs if desired. When you are happy with the flavor, strain the sauce through a sieve and discard the roasted vegetables. Place the sauce back in the roasting pan and bring it to the boil.
In a small bowl combine 2 tbsp. of all-purpose flour with about 1 1/2 tbsp. of the reserved turkey fat. Stir well to combine. Add this mixture to the sauce and whisk constantly over high heat until the gravy begins to thicken. You can continue making and adding more flour/fat until your desired consistency is achieved. I prefer that the gravy be of medium density, but your mileage may vary, of course. Once it has thickened, turn the heat to low and keep warm until use. That's really all there is too it. The finished gravy does *not* taste like turnips, but that liquid gives the final product that certain je ne sais quoi. Really. Its delicious!
*Because you will be heating the roasting pan over high heat to deglaze and form the gravy, you need to be sure that your roaster is of quality material and able to withstand high heat. This is why I forbid you to use a foil roasting pan. A dark, heavy-bottomed roaster is the way to go. Do not attempt to heat and deglaze a glass roasting pan, it will shatter. This technique applies only to heavy, metal roasters.
If you've not made gravy before, this may seem rather complex. I assure, its not. Good gravy is simply the result of good ingredients, a good pan, and a bit of care and tending at the end. For a better explanation, I now direct you to an article which appeared in yesterday's New York Times. While I disagree with some of what's written, its an excellent overview of the process and includes actual recipes. The article mentions that you can make gravy in advance and freeze it - which is something I typically do as well ... but you'll have to wait until next year for that recipe!
Meanwhile, tell me about your gravy. Curious Diva wants to know.