Thankfully (pardon the pun), the actual mechanics of the traditional turkey dinner are easy to master. And most of a big meal really just comes down to planning ahead...the rest is a good bottle of wine.
Today, we'll cover making a basic gravy from broth using a roux (a combination of butter and flour cooked together). This is not the only way to make a good gravy, I should mention. My mother has always made her plate-licking-it's-so-good gravy with a slurry (combination of cold water and cornstarch that thickens a liquid when it comes to a boil).
I just prefer using a roux. Perhaps because when I was in college a million years ago, the chef taught me how to make gravy for 500 people this way (yes, I was in the college kitchen all those many years ago too). And I got pretty good at it (no one died or complained). I remember being impressed that even with the teeny-tiny operating budget Chef Paul had to work with, he didn't skimp on the gravy and use powdered mix (gag me).
Tie on an apron, Gretel, and let's get started. While I am going to walk you through this with a chicken, the principals work with turkeys and beef as well.
|the stuff you DON'T want|
in the gravy
|the stuff you DO want|
in the gravy
In a saucepan (and I prefer a larger one because it gives more room to work with), melt 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) of butter. Yes, you can make this with margarine but it seriously won't taste as good. I've also heard you can make it with motor oil but that doesn't mean you should. (hmmm, motor oil=margarine? ....)
Also, if you are, in fact, feeding the 101st, you'll need more butter and flour. This is enough gravy to make 4+ cups.
Melt the butter, stirring with a whisk. To this add a scant 1/2 cup of all purpose flour, stirring all the time. Continue to cook this over a medium heat. You are removing the raw taste of the flour (just like in pate choux) and defining what color the gravy will be--meaning, if you want your gravy browner, as for beef, cook the roux a little longer. For chicken/turkey gravy, this isn't necessary. Adjust the heat if all seems to be cooking to fast (gravy shouldn't be black).
|The roux will be in clumps|
before adding the broth
|I should be whisking here|
but it's hard to take pictures
too with only two hands.
I test the thickness by dipping a spoon in and seeing if it coats the back.
Now taste your gravy. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Not chickeny enough? add some sage or poultry seasoing. Or a bit of onion powder. Salt. Pepper. Try not to add a seasoning you didn't cook the meat with or it will seem odd (aka yucky).
The difference between this and using a slurry is that the process goes, well, kind of backwards....and there's a teeny tiny bit more fat with a roux (but not really because if you eat something on a holiday, it's fat free--trust me).
With a slurry, add your broth to a saucepan and heat. In a small bowl or cup, stir together a heaping tablespoon of cornstarch to a tablespoon or two of COLD water and stir well. Add this slurry to the broth and keeping mixing. When the gravy comes to a full boil, that is the thickness of your broth. Don't continue to boil the gravy though or you will break down the cornstarch to something, well, quite icky.
Season according to taste.
I hope this helps a little.