Tom Ross: The secret is in the roux
November 23, 2010
Steamboat Springs — When it comes to Thanksgiving Day dinner, it's all about the gravy. Moist turkey is a given these days with self-basting turkeys, so it's the quality of the gravy that separates the neophytes from the pilgrims.
I studied the art of making gravy at the elbow of my mother.
We were a giblet family. But I understand that not everyone wants to chop up the turkey's organs to make an ingredient in the sacred gravy. No matter — the basics of making a savory gravy with a smooth consistency with or without giblets are essentially the same.
And now, I'm going to share the wisdom of the ages with you.
Always wear an apron — it sends a strong message that you are a gravy expert and not to be second-guessed.
If you're the kind of guy who wears a neck tie for Thanksgiving dinner, unbutton the two middle buttons of your shirt, tuck the loose ends of the tie inside the shirt and don't forget to button it back up.
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It may be OK to get a gravy spot on your tie during dinner, but it's a big no-no to drag your tie through the gravy while it's bubbling over the stove.
Make your stock while the turkey is in the oven. Throw out the gizzard, chop up the liver and the heart and put it in a sauce pan with a small amount of chopped onions, a chopped celery stem, a teaspoon of sage and the turkey neck. Add a pint of water and simmer on low indefinitely. About 30 minutes before the turkey is due to come out of the oven, remove the giblet pieces and the neck from the broth. Pick small pieces of meat off the neck until you lose patience and put them in the broth.
Make your roux in advance. When the turkey comes out of the oven, you'll want to let it sit on its broiling pan for 10 to 15 minutes to allow it time to set up before carving. This is your window of opportunity to get busy on the roux because once the gravy mixture begins to boil, there's no looking back.
What's a roux? It's nothing but a fancy French word for the magic gravy thickener that turns watery pan drippings into nectar of the bird.
For turkey gravy, I recommend melting butter in a separate saucepan along with a modest amount of turkey fat rendered when the bird is cooked in the oven.
I don't rely on measurements when I cook. However, if you decide to practice the art of the gravy in advance, try melting six tablespoons of butter over low heat, and adding three tablespoons of hot turkey grease. Gradually blend in the flour. When you have achieved a thick yellow paste, take the pan off the heat. This is also the time to heat a small cup of milk in the microwave.
The best kitchen tool ever devised for gravy making next to the wire whisk is the gravy beaker. It's a big measuring cup with a spout that pulls liquid from the bottom of the container. Pour your pan drippings into a gravy beaker, and you'll soon see all of the fat rising to the top. The design of the beaker allows you to pour off the meat juices from the bottom while avoiding unwanted fat.
Return the juices to the boiling pan along with the broth and gently scrape the bottom of the pan with a hard spatula. Add the milk.
With the broiling pan resting on two burners, crank both to high and begin stirring vigorously. Gradually add half of the roux to the mixture and don't let up on beating the mixture even long enough to take a pull on your beer.
When the mixture begins to thicken, it will undergo a transformation and begin to thicken. If it looks a little thin, add a little more roux and repeat until you're happy with the gravy. There shall be no lumps.
If your dinner guests rave about the nectar of the bird and ask for seconds of mashed potatoes just so they can consume more of the precious sauce, consider yourself a new member of the Royal Order of the Gravy Boat.
Happy Thanksgiving brothers and sisters.