Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Gravy used to disgust me. I liked my turkey and potatoes dry as a kid. I'm not sure if this was a personal issue with stunted development or a commentary on the gravies I was served. Gravy is now the best part of any roasted meat meal, including the Thanksgiving behemoth, the turkey.
It is possible to get very sophisticated about terminology regarding gravy. "Gravy" is a thick, flour-based sauce. Potentially disgusting. A reduction sauce, or deglazed stock is thinner, more flavorful and all around more delicious, not to mention easily Paleo. Although we will serve this at our Thanksgiving table, and we will serve it out of a gravy boat, and we will call it gravy, it is not truly "gravy", it is a deglazed, reduction sauce. And it is better.
The first thing about making gravy is that if you are one of those super-stress freak type cooks who focuses more on the end result than on the process you need to get a hold of yourself. The gravy will be made after the turkey comes out of the oven when all the relatives and guests are peppering you with offers of "help" and/or asking when the food will be served. You will be tempted to rush and give in to this outside pressure. Don't do it. The final moments before a large meal with a roast of meat are sacred. Everyone but your true assistants steps aside. It is nice if the meat carver is a different person than the gravy maker. Do as my grandfather always wanted, and warm your gravy boat or dish on the back of the stove. Nothing takes a gravy downhill faster than pouring it into an ice cold dish.
If you begin the roasting process with that Holy Trinity of herbs (sage, rosemary and thyme) mixed in to softened butter, you will not have any worry regarding the flavor of your sauce. I slather this herb butter under the skin of my turkey as well as all over the top before it goes in the oven. Turkey skin is hardly attached to the meat, so this is easy. I use this melted butter as part of the pan drippings that I baste the turkey with during cooking. Once I remove the turkey form the roaster to the carving board I have a large pan full of delicous drippings. If the turkey was particularly succulent and there is a large amount of fat, I pour some of it off. I keep about 1 cup of fat in the roaster and all the other liquid and drippings. If you let your turkey get too dry during cooking you might need some additional stock or water. You can have additional stock on hand by simmering the "giblets", (the neck etc... that is in a little bag inside your turkey usually) in some water while the turkey is roasting. I like about 1 1/2c of liquid to 1c of fat, but to be honest, I usually just leave EVERYTHING in the roaster and get started. I take 1/2c of drippings out of the pan and put them in a pyrex measuring cup. I add 1/4c of arrowroot powder and I mix like mad until there are no lumps. Arrowroot is not as forgiving as flour about yielding up its lumps later on in the process. My grandmother's edition of The Joy of Cooking asserts that arrowroot will make the most delicate textured sauce! This gem of a book also reminds us that arrowroot has a neutral flavor and, unlike flour, does not need to be cooked to remove its "rawness". Arrowroot also has a calcium-base which makes it nice for the Paleo crew. Now, add your arrowroot mixture back into the roasting pan which you should have on a burner with the heat on medium. Whisk vigorously! At this point, your sauce is finished except for the addition of salt if you want it. I sometimes throw some onions, garlic, carrots, white wine etc... in around my roasting meat. You can use this as part of your sauce by removing all chunks of vegetables and blending them with stock before returning them to your roasting pan.