Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy
This is a wonderful way to take some of the last-minute pressure of Thanksgiving off your head: make the gravy ahead of time. When you're rushing around your kitchen trying to pull together all of the last-minute elements of Thanksgiving dinner, you won't have to be whisking up a roux and hoping not to get lumps in the gravy. Instead, you can simply bring the premade gravy up to a simmer on the stovetop, and season it with a bit of the pan drippings from the turkey roasting pan.
This recipe is adapted from Cook's Illustrated magazine, November/December 2001 edition. Since I usually brine my turkey, the only use I have for the very salty pan drippings is as flavoring for this make-ahead gravy, which can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before the holiday. You'll need to roast some bones and vegetables to make turkey stock, and the process is a bit time-consuming. But it's worth it, in my opinion. And most of the cooking time is the stock simmering on the stove, which doesn't require your hands-on attention.
Make sure your turkey is well defrosted (I recommend getting a fresh, not frozen, turkey) so that you can add the neck and giblets to the bones. Well-stocked meat departments carry turkey necks and backs. If you can't find them, you can substitute turkey legs. Don't try to use turkey wings; they are much too fatty and make the broth greasy.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: about 3 hours
Yield: approximately 1 quart
About 2 to 3 pounds additional turkey necks and backs, purchased at the market
1 medium carrrot, coarsely chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 celery rib, coarsely chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 small onions, coarsely chopped into 1-inch pieces
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 cans (14.5 oz. each) low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups dry white wine
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place turkey giblets, necks, backs, carrot, celery, onions, and garlic into a large flameproof roasting pan. Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray and toss to combine. Roast, stirring every 10 minutes, until well-browned, about 1 hour.
Remove roasting pan from oven, and place over 1 or 2 burners set at high heat. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
Transfer contents of the roasting pan to a large stockpot or saucepan. Add wine, 3 cups of water, and thyme sprigs; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced by half, about 1 1/2 hours. Strain stock into a large measuring cup or container. Cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until fat congeals, about 1 hour.
Skim fat from the stock and reserve. Pour the stock through a fine-mesh strainer to remove remaining bits of fat; discard bits in strainer. Bring stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. In a second medium saucepan, heat 4 Tbsp of the reserved turkey fat over medium-high heat until bubbling (if you don't have 4 Tbsp of fat, make up the difference with butter). Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until combined and honey-colored, about 2 minutes. Continuing to whisk constantly, gradually add the hot stock; bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
To serve: bring the gravy to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Add about 1/4 cup of defatted turkey pan drippings (from the turkey recipe), a few grinds of black pepper, and then stir well to combine. Taste the gravy carefully, and add more pan drippings if needed. Adjust seasonings with more salt and pepper if necessary, then transfer the gravy to a boat or other container and serve.