Come closer and pay strict attention, I'm about to divulge my greatest Thanksgiving Tip of all. Its the tip that preserves my sanity, the balm that soothes my soul. Its called Make-Ahead Gravy and its discovery was a revelation for me.
Now, I'll allow for the possibility that this is not a revelation for you. Perhaps you're more savvy or more brave than I - but up until 5 years ago or so, I had no idea that you could actually freeze gravy. It all started the year I was hosting an unprecedented 16 for Thanksgiving. I was terrified that I wouldn't have enough gravy to go around the table, much less any for leftovers. Panic stricken and desperate, I was flipping through a November issue of Woman's Day and low and behold there was an entire article on cooking in advance for Thanksgiving ... including the gravy. Color me hopeful ... and slightly dubious!
Turns out there was no need to worry; frozen gravy defrosts just fine - and though the texture may seem a bit strange at first, it all comes together in the reheat with the help of a wire whisk. I've long since lost the actual recipe, and I've adapted and refined the method as the years have gone on. This is my version and it is a God-send!
- 4 large turkey wings
- 1 large turkey leg
- 1 large (or 2 medium) onion(s), peeled and quartered
- 3 large shallots, peeled and quartered
- 2 large carrots, peeled and quartered
- 2 large parsnips, peeled and quartered
- 1/3 cup of Vin Santo, Sherry or Port Wine
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- some Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 5 large whole sprigs of fresh thyme
- 6 cups of non-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup Vin Santo, Sherry or Port Wine (this is in addition to the above)
- 1 additional cup of vegetable broth
- some water
- 6 tablespoons of softened butter, or 2 tbsp. of fat from the pan drippings
- 6 tablespoons all purpose flour
Place the turkey wings and the leg in a large, heavy roasting pan, skin side up, and around them scatter the onions, shallots, carrots and parsnips. Pour 1/3 cup of Vin Santo, Sherry or Port Wine over the turkey and dust the entire pan with a bit of poultry seasoning, Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Dot the turkey parts with a bit of butter and place some sprigs of whole fresh thyme in and around the pan. Roast in the middle of a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and place the wings, leg and all of the vegetables into a large stock pot. To the stock pot, add 6 cups of chicken broth and 2 cups of vegetable broth. Cover, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, deglaze the roasting pan: add 1/4 cup of Vin Santo, Sherry or Port and 1 cup of vegetable broth to the pan and heat over high heat, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom and sides of the pan. Stir frequently and allow the mixture to boil, reduce heat and continue simmering and scraping for 2 or 3 minutes, adding some water to the pan, if necessary, to keep things liquid. Remove from heat and pour the contents of the pan into a defatting cup. Allow the fat to separate, then strain the liquid only into a large sauce pan. Reserve until the turkey/broth mixture has finished cooking.
Once the turkey parts have finished simmering, remove them from the cooking liquid. Discard the bones and save the meat for another use if desired. Strain the broth into a container large enough to hold it and to it add the reserved pan juices. Stir to combine and reserve.
Make a beurre manie by combining 6 tablespoons of softened butter with 6 tablespoons of flour, mixing them together to achieve a thick paste. (Alternately, you could use the fat from the roasting pan, mixed with the flour, which is what I do.) Heat a large, heavy bottomed stock pot over medium high heat and to it add the beurre manie, stirring well with a wooden spoon to heat. Slowly add some of the reserved stock mixture, about a cup, raise the heat to high and whisk vigorously with a wire whisk until the mixture begins to thicken. Allow the mixture to come to the boil. Continue adding the stock slowly, whisking all the while, until all the stock has been added. Reduce heat slightly and boil gently, while stirring and whisking, for 4 to 5 minutes until the gravy begins to thicken and any lumps have been dissolved. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding some salt, pepper, a bit of sherry, or whatever you like, if desired.
Should you desire a thicker gravy, you can make an additional batch of beurre manie and add it little by little until your preferred consistency has been achieved. Once finished, strain the gravy through a mesh strainer into a covered, freezer-safe container and chill in the fridge until completely cool. Once cooled, transfer the container to your freeze and store until needed.
The frozen gravy will keep, in the freezer, for up to a month. To use, remove from freezer the night before needed and thaw in the fridge over night. Transfer to a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan and heat over medium to medium-high heat, whisking well to smooth the mixture, until hot. Serve and enjoy!
As written this recipe will yield approximately 5 to 6 cups of finished gravy.
I'll admit that there's a fair bit of work involved here, but I think its worthwhile. Spending an afternoon making a rich and wonderful gravy take some of the pressure off of the actual day of the holiday. I will still make a fresh gravy on the day of Thanksgiving and will combine it with my defrosted mixture. The result is one happy Diva and enough gravy to satisfy an army. Color me delighted!