My favorite part of holiday feasts isn’t the turkey, the green beans, or the pie. It’s the gravy! Most of my life, I’ve made my gravy from turkey drippings, toiling for an hour over the hot stove right in the middle of all of the festivities. But when I fell in love with deep fried turkeys, I had to get creative– a deep fried turkey doesn’t leave you drippings for gravy-making. I needed gravy, but without the turkey.
This gravy needs no drippings, and it can be made months ahead of time and reheated when you need it. It is so deep, rich, and savory that it just might steal the show. Plus, this recipe makes about three quarts– enough to feed a crowd OR enough for several Covid-sized holidays.
I recommend making it over 2 days– hands-on time is minimal (about 1 hour total), but the cooking time is pretty long– 4 hours for the first part, a 30 minute (or overnight) wait, then about 30-45 min. for the second part. But the work beforehand is totally worth it when you don’t have to make it during the holiday fun.
You will need:
1 pound carrots
1 bunch celery
2 large yellow onions
1 head garlic
¼ C olive oil
4 pounds turkey wings and/or thighs
1 bunch thyme
1 tsp peppercorns
6 bay leaves
½ bunch of parsley
2-3 C Chardonnay
4 quarts chicken broth or stock
1 ½ C flour
1 to 1 ½ sticks butter
1 Tbsp bouillon concentrate (mushroom, turkey, or chicken)
kosher salt and cracked pepper
Heat your oven to 400F and haul out your biggest sheet pan. I used a roasting pan, but a sheet pan will work better– the roasting pan crowded the veggies and kept them from caramelizing as much as I’d like.
There’s no need to trim the veggies, since they won’t be eaten in the finished product. Roughly chop the carrots and put them in the bottom of your pan. Do the same with the celery and onion, reserving the root portion of the celery and the peel and root portions of the onion. Cut the root off of the garlic (mine was especially dirty, so I tossed it), then cut the head of garlic in half crosswise.
Scatter all of these on top of the carrots in your pan and sprinkle with about a teaspoon of kosher salt, 5-6 thyme branches, and the olive oil.
Add your turkey on top of the veggies, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for two hours, or until the turkey is golden brown and the veggies are deeply brown. You may want to start checking about fifteen minutes early, just in case your oven runs hot.
Add the celery and onion trimmings to the biggest stockpot you have, along with the peppercorns, parsley, bay leaves, and ½ of the remaining thyme.
When your turkey and veggies are done, add them to the stock pot, but DON’T WASH THE PAN YET!! Do you see those brown bits stuck on the bottom of the pan?
Those are going to give your gravy a depth of flavor AND also some color. Add about two cups of white wine to the pan. Set it over a burner on medium, and scrape up all of the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Once the pan is basically clean on the bottom, add the wine and accumulated bits to the stock pot. BONUS: This means no scouring your pan! It’s way easier to clean!
Add chicken broth or stock to cover the contents of the saucepan, and turn the burner to high. Once your stock is boiling, turn it down to a simmer, and simmer for 1 ½ hours.
After simmering, take out the turkey pieces and strip the meat from the bones. This meat is SUPER delicious, you can use it to make turkey salad sandwiches, or turkey pot pie, or turkey soup. Or eat half of it by dipping it into the pot to taste-test your gravy, like I did.
Strain the rest of the stock into a bowl or containers, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.
Let this sit for at least 30 minutes or overnight in a fridge. The goal is to get the fat to float to the top, where you can skim it off and use it to continue.
Skim the fat from the top of the liquid. You should have about one cup. If you have less, you’ll need to add about 2 tablespoons of butter for each ¼ cup you’re missing. Add that and the stick of butter to your largest stockpot.
Melt the fat over medium heat, then whisk in the flour. If you don’t have enough fat to get the mixture into a whiskable state, add a touch more butter until it is smooth and non-clumpy. It should look more like the second picture below than the first.
Whisk it together and let it cook for about 1 minute, until the flour smells nutty.
Add a few cups of stock and whisk it in thoroughly. Continue adding stock, a few cups at a time, until it’s all combined and whisked in thoroughly.
Add half of the rest of the thyme, 4 bay leaves, and a few cranks of ground peppercorn to the pot. Taste for salt– if you’re using unsalted broth, as I was, you’ll need to add quite a bit, about 2 Tbsp.
Let the gravy come to a low boil, then turn the heat to medium, and simmer until thickened, whisking occasionally. Because there’s so much of it, this may take some time– 20-40 minutes.
Once the gravy is thickened to your liking, strip the rest of the thyme from the branches and whisk it into your gravy. Taste it again. If it’s lacking a bit of turkey flavor, add the bouillon concentrate. If it needs a touch of brightness, add a splash of white wine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
At this point, you can serve the gravy. Or, as is most likely, you can refrigerate up to 2 days or freeze up to 3 months. To defrost, put gravy in a fridge overnight. To re-heat, add gravy to a saucepan and gently re-heat on low, adding additional chicken broth or white wine as necessary to adjust the consistency. If you have turkey drippings on the day you’re heating it up, feel free to stir those in, too.
Now you have a slam-dunk gravy ready to go for all of your dinner-plate-smothering needs!