At Home’s Football Sunday Do Ahead No Compromise Turkey Gravy

All around America this Thanksgiving too many hosts and hostesses will be frantic in their kitchens making last minute turkey gravy with pan drippings of their just roasted turkey. It’s part of what contributes to Thanksgiving panic. There simply is no need for this.

Screen shot 2009-11-15 at 11.12.36 PMIf you follow this blog, you know that my goal for you is one relaxed hour prior to guest arrival and that the key to getting that hour is planning and doing things ahead. I bring the perspective of a caterer to home entertaining. Caterer’s have no time for last minute sauces for large groups. If you’re not the one making Thanksgiving, pass this along to your host. Better yet, volunteer to bring the gravy. And enjoy the Sunday football games!

At Home’s Football Sunday Do Ahead No Compromise Turkey Gravy
Making Turkey Gravy is a bit like a football game. It takes hours to watch a football game. But, on average there are 125 plays per game, each lasting about 7 seconds for a total of just 14 plus minutes of action. This leisurely paced recipe — strongly recommended for this coming Sunday before Thanksgiving — begins at the pre-game show and is ready for your Thanksgiving turkey by the end of the second game. Most of the time can be spent watching TV.

Why is this “No Compromise” Turkey Gravy?
It’s no compromise because it’s simply great turkey gravy based on a rich wine-enhanced turkey stock that gets it’s flavor from roast turkey — in this case turkey legs — including pan drippings just as if you did this on Thanksgiving Day.

Do Ahead This gravy should be made the Sunday before Thanksgiving or up to a week ahead. If longer than a week place in freezer. Do not add optional tarragon until reheating. Defrost in refrigerator two days prior to use.

2-3 medium to large onions, root and shoot end removed, quartered
4-5 celery ribs, rinsed cut into 1″ pieces
3-4 large to medium carrots, rinsed and cut into 1″ pieces
2-3 parsnips, rinsed and cut into 1″ pieces
1 tablespoon oil
5-6 cloves garlic
6-8 springs parsley, rinsed
6-8 springs fresh thyme
3-4 dried bay leaves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Approximately 12 cups water plus some to de-glaze roasting pan
3 1/2 cups dry white wine*
5-6 turkey legs, about 6 pounds
5 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh tarragon leaves (stems removed) and diced, optional

Start during local pregame show – about 1 1/2 hours before kick-off. During this time you will roast turkey legs and get the stock ready to cook.
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pat turkey legs dry and lightly oil bottom of roasting pan. Place turkey legs in roasting pan and roast for about 1 1/2 hours until legs are well browned. About half way through, turn legs.
2. While turkey legs are roasting, get your stock pot(s) ready. You will need one large 10-12 quart pot or two medium pots. Combine onion, celery, carrots, parsnips, garlic, parsley, thyme, garlic, parsley, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns. If you are using two pots, divide ingredients approximately equally.
3. When turkey legs are done roasting and nicely browned, add to stock pot(s).
4. Pour out all rendered fat from roasting pan. Add water to a depth of about 1/2-inch. Place pan over burner over moderate heat. Scrape bottom of pan as water is heating to remove and dissolve crusty bits of turkey. Pour into stock pot.
5. Add white wine and enough water to cover ingredients by about an inch.

During the first game the stock will cook slowly.
6. Bring to simmer. Stock should be lightly bubbling but not boiling. When stock begins to simmer a bit of scum will form on top. Remove this with a large spoon or ladle. Repeat as needed. Simmer until the first game is over — about 3 1/2 hours. Check occasionally to make sure ingredients are still covered with liquid.

Just prior to kick-off of second game you will strain stock and allow stock to sit through the first half of the second game so you can remove grease that rises to top.
7. Off heat. Strain stock through a medium strainer into a large bowl or clean pot. With back of sturdy kitchen spoon or ladle, gently press against solid ingredients in strainer to extract liquid. You will need to do this in several steps. You should have about 10 cups stock.
8. Allow stock to sit though the first half, or at least 30 minutes, to allow fat to rise to surface. With a spoon or ladle, carefully remove fat.

During half time of the second game you will degrease stock and begin reducing to concentrate its flavor.
9. Pass de-greased turkey stock through a fine strainer into pot. Over moderate high heat, bring to boil. When boiling begins, a pale foam will collect on surface. Using spoon or ladle, remove and discard. Reduce stock by about half to 5 cups. If you reduce it too far, simply add back some water to get 5 cups liquid. Check occasionally during commercials to make sure stock is not cooking away.

If the second game is close, just wait until it’s over to finish gravy. If not, proceed to next step – turning stock to gravy by thickening.
10. In a medium pot — large enough to comfortably hold reduce stock — over low-moderate heat, add butter and melt. Add flour. This makes a roux. Whisk for about a minute taking care not to brown. Add hot turkey stock, increase heat to high-moderate. Bring to slow boil, whisking to break-up any bits of roux. Reduce to simmer. Check sauce for thickness. Sauce should lightly coat a spoon. If sauce is too thin, increase heat to slow boil and reduce to thicken taking care to check often. Add optional tarragon and salt and pepper. Allow to cool and refrigerate.

Thanksgiving Day
Reheat sauce over moderate heat until very hot.

Yield 5 cups turkey gravy serving 18-24 guests

If you must, you can add the pan drippings from your Thanksgiving turkey roast — though this sauce does not need it. To do this, remove turkey from roasting pan. Pour off all rendered fat. Add water, chicken or turkey stock or a bit of white wine and place pan over burner at moderate-high heat. Scrape pan, loosening and dissolving bits of stuck turkey. This should take less than a minute. Pass this liquid through a fine strainer into gravy. This will likely thin out gravy too much so cook gravy over moderate heat until it returns to desired thickness. Stir occasionally taking care not to burn gravy.

*Note about buying white wine for cooking: There is no reason to spend more than $8 – $12 on a bottle of white wine for cooking or utilize some leftover wine from large bottle.

At Home’s How to Chop an Onion Video

Chopping onions is probably the vegetable prep task you do most. To help make it easier to chop an onion, I have made a short video — How to Chop an Onion. I hope you find it useful and, if so, pass it along to others who you know struggle with onion chopping.

What Guests Can Do To Help
Numbers of readers have offered great suggestions for our list. Please post your suggestions for What Guests Can Do To Help on this blog by using the “Leave a Comment” under this post or send an email to me at need your help now to come up with a great list to share with Thanksgiving hosts and I will need your help later in sharing the list. Let’s work on this together over the next two weeks.

Screen shot 2009-11-13 at 6.30.44 PM

The Perfect Gift for Your Thanksgiving Host
At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining with At Home Online, the companion website for book owners, is the perfect house gift to bring to your Thanksgiving host. At Home is not available in bookstores, but only from Order now in plenty of time for Thanksgiving.


Filed under Holidays, Recipes, Tips

2 responses to “At Home’s Football Sunday Do Ahead No Compromise Turkey Gravy

  1. Karen Scholnick

    I need to make a gluten free gravy, so I use cornstarch instead of flour, with tasty success.

  2. Anne

    I’m not a football fan, but this was truly easy to do ahead of time on a day that was mostly at home. I substituted turkey necks instead of legs. Still very tasty. Any thoughts on the choice of parts Steve?

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