I’ve been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for as long as I can remember. Back when I was doing USA High, 100 years ago, my house was refuge for any PA’s (production assistants) and writer’s assistants that couldn’t make it home for the holiday. Side note: One in particular never missed for about twelve years straight. Shout out to Aaron, we miss you man! They were awesome times filled with family, friends and great food that have continued and evolved for 20+ years. I usually prepare a fairly traditional menu, although I do mix it up from time to time. I ask my mom to bring the baked mac and cheese because anyone who’s had it does. The woman puts her foot in the mac and cheese! That’s an old black people saying. Why do we say that? Why on earth would that be good, because I’m fairly certain that if mom actually did put her foot in the mac and cheese it would be less appetizing. Then again, what I don’t know don’t hurt…it’s delicious!
Now that I’m married and have a family of my own there are some new dishes that make it to the table from my husbands side of the family. He’s a good ol’ boy from Texas, so that’s forced me to master making “cheese grits”. Full disclosure, I’ve made some “California” tweaks to the original recipe, so it’s not quite as artery clogging, but he still digs it. Sorry Mama Debbie.
Not to toot my own horn or anything, but there’s a reason I make the big holiday meals so, TOOT TOOT! I love it, consider it my ministry, and while I’m not a professional chef by any stretch, over the course of many years, I’ve gotten it down. I make a juicy turkey, and variety of sides, but really, what’s any of it if it’s not smothered in gravy? Since we all have our traditional favorites for the table I’m going to trust you have those covered and just share with you a pretty fool proof way to hook up some delicious gravy. I will say, this isn’t an exact science, theres plenty of freedom to play with this gravy, don’t be scurred.
- turkey giblets and neck
- one onion cut in chunks
- 3-5 cloves of garlic
- fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage) *You can use the dried versions as well
- carton of vegetable or chicken broth
- Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Beforehand prep: Whenever I start to prepare the turkey I take the giblets and neck out of the cavity and place it in a large ziploc storage bag. I’ll take a few cloves of garlic, chopped onion, and sprigs of whatever herbs (usually rosemary, thyme, and sage) I’m using and drop them in the bag with turkey parts. They will stay in the refrigerator for 1-3 days depending on when I prep my bird.
Thanksgiving morning I will take everything from the bag and transfer them in a medium sized pot, with a carton of vegetable broth and about 3 tsp. of butter. (You can totally use chicken broth, I just have a weird allergy to chicken) I cover the pot, put the burner on super low and keep it that way all day long. It usually ends up cooking from about 8 am – 3 pm. I just check on it through out the day and if I feel like I need to add more liquid, I just add more broth, but it’s cooking super slow so it’s usually fine.
When it’s time to make the gravy, Run your broth with the neck and giblets through a strainer to separate the chucks of meat, vegetables, and herbs them from the liquid. You should end up with at least 1 1/2 – 2 cups of broth. Pour about half of that into a pan and heat on high. When you see it starting to boil begin adding in flour one heaping tablespoon at a time. (2 will probably be enough) You’ll want to be whisking briskly the entire time to avoid lumps. Your mixture will begin to thicken, as it does just continue whisking and slowing add more of your broth to thin it out. As it cooks it continues to brown and thicken but, I like a nice brown gravy, so I add a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce for added flavor and color. It’s also great to add some of the yummy juices from the turkey drippings with the turkey baster Add salt and pepper to taste, I like a good amount of pepper in mine. If you want added texture pull pieces from the cooked turkey neck and add it to the gravy. Everything you need is right in front of you. If you need to thin out our gravy add more broth or drippings, more flavor add seasoning, just be very light handed with with it all because it’s easy to add, not so much to take away. If you’re finding this hard to follow or have any questions feel free to email me.
I’m going to be all the way honest with you folks. If my gravy isn’t perfectly smooth, I am not above using a hand blender for a few pulses and that does the trick beautifully. Look, I’ve even carefully poured the whole thing in a regular blender in a pinch, I told you’ve I’ve been doing this for over twenty years! I’m sure that’s against all the rules in the Bobby Flay handbook, but I don’t care one bit about that because the gravy is always a hit at my house.
Like I said this isn’t an exact science. One of the greatest gifts my mom gave me was my ability to have no fear in the kitchen. I’m willing to try anything. I’ll add a bit of this or that until I achieve the tastes and flavors that I want. That’s really all there is to it. I’m grateful to her for that. I’m grateful for so much this season. I’m grateful that I still have a house full of people to break bread with during the holidays. I’m grateful for my beautiful little family that inspires me to be better at anything I put my hands to. I have quite a ways to go, but I’m thankful for where I am, everything that’s gotten me here, and where I’m going. Wherever we are, lets not forget to find the things we can be grateful for. While it can be challenging, there’s always something and simple gratitude can be transformative.
Be blessed, Happy Thanksgiving!