I think gravy is a big deal, for a few reasons. One, it's delicious and I love it. (Ok, that's pretty subjective and I don't know if that actually counts). Two, it acts as a bridge, bringing together every element of the meal. I wait all year for that perfect Thanksgiving bite of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy and cranberries all living in harmony together. Finally, gravy covers a lot of sins. Anything that turned out dry (I'm looking at you, turkey), or somewhat lacking in flavor can be brought back to life with a healthy ladle of gravy. Now, I know that making the gravy can seem intimidating, because it really must be done at the last minute and things are already potentially going sideways in your overcrowded kitchen. But if you keep a few things in mind, you can make a beautiful sauce that will elevate the entire meal.
The most important components in making an awesome gravy are the stock, the thickener and the drippings. You want to choose a high quality stock. You could absolutely make it yourself, but I am a realist, so we can save that chat for another time. Higher end grocery stores sell house-made versions, as well as Williams Sonoma, but even Harris Teeter has a few on the shelf that are above average. Leave the canned stock for another purpose, and splurge on a more expensive version and it will pay off for you.
As far as thickeners, one of the least intimidating things to make is a beurre manie. This is fancy French for a paste-like dough made from equal parts of flour and softened butter. You can make this ahead and even freeze it. Then you simply whisk it in to your stock to the consistency you like and let it simmer for a few minutes. How easy is that!? And your gravy will be lump-free because the butter coats the flour particles and...science.
The last element, the drippings, is hugely important for flavor, but really not hard at all. Simply take the cooked turkey out of the pan to rest (at least 20 minutes before carving) and pour off the fat. Then put your pan on a burner, and use some liquid to deglaze the fond (fancy French for drippings- ok, now I am just showing off). White wine would be great, but stock is good, too. Scrape all of the flavorful liquid into a saucepan, which will be easier to work with, add turkey/chicken stock, whisk in your beurre manie, season and voila! You have beautiful gravy. If you really want to wow your guests, you can throw in some chopped fresh herbs like thyme or parsley.
I certainly hope my tips have been helpful. And remember, this holiday is more about who is around the table than what is on it. Wishing each of you a healthy, safe, delicious and very Happy Thanksgiving!
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