Thursday, November 20, 2008

Glorious Gravy

I know what you're thinking, so go ahead and ask ... "Why is there a picture of a turnip attached to a post about gravy?" Curious, isn't it? Patience. All will be revealed.

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
Once your turkey is done, remove it from the roasting pan, set it on a platter and tent with foil. Carefully drain all of the fat and accumulated juices from the roasting pan into a de-fatting cup, while leaving the roasted veggies in the bottom of the pan. Allow the juices to sit in the de-fatting cup - the fat will rise to the top and the juices will be on the bottom.

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.

Bon appetite!


pixelgal said...

Hi Darling Diva;
You're so modest! Your gravy is as wonderful as Gram's. Every year we look forward to it. The pictures of the turkey have my mouth watering. Can't wait 'til some of your magic happens in my kitchen. It will be a first!
Anyway, this is my first foray into the wonderful world of the net since the new knee. Thanks all you folks out there for your good wishes. I know they helped.
Papa Diva just made me a computer board so I can hang out in the living room and Bro made me wireless. And thanks to Hanci-Care I'm a new woman! Auntie fed my peeps during the worst of it. How I can repay all these folks? Maybe Santa will be extra good to them this year....or not...depending on how far down goes the DOW!

Love y'all

HektikLyfe said...

Why must food be so confusing. What happened to that dehydrated utopian future we were promised!?!

For a full blown turkey dinner, just add water.

Veriance said...

that gravy sounds so good. I'm a fan of the rutabaga, my mother used to make them in the fall, yummy! Also adding that de-fatting cup to Superman's Christmas list!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Aw, thanks, Pixelgal! Looking forward to creating the delicious in your kitchen next week ... just make sure its clean! (kidding!) As for paying everyone back - not even a bit ... they're paying *you* back for years of your care! :)

Hektik - you make me laugh ... "dehydrated utopian future" ... hilarious!

Veri - I think Superman would love that defatting cup, its 'da bomb! Glad I'm not the only fan of the yellow turnip ... I know its a rutabaga but having grown up in New England I can't call it by its proper name. :)

Deb said...

I use your "yellow trunip" for Thanksgiving but I never learned it was a rutabaga until I wan an adult. We cook it like potatoes and mash and add butter salt pepper and some sugar (or Splenda) t cut the bitter and serve as a Thanksgiving side. Everyone eats it except my daughter who to this day is not a big fan of the "turnip". Interesting variation and use of the veg....


Deb said...

PS Hey Pixiegal good to see you back on the blog! I just know you are going to be fine and out and about in no time!


pixelgal said...

THanks Deb. Hope your husband is getting better every day as well. Enjoy the holiday.

The Diva on a Diet said...

Deb - we serve the mashed turnips with our Thanksgiving dinner too. Next to the stuffing, its my favorite part. Like the gravy - my grandma Pam made the best turnips ... put the two together and OMG, heaven! I look forward to the turnips every year ... the husband doesn't like them so I only end up having them at TG and Christmas.

Welcome back to the blog, Pixelgal! We've missed you!