Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without turkey gravy. And not just any turkey gravy will do. It starts with a roux.
I’ve been making roux since I began to cook our weekday meals in the second grade. In my family, a light golden roux was the base for pan gravy, which was the mandated accompaniment to mashed potatoes. Many years later, I learned about a darker version, which is the base for French brown sauces and traditional Creole dishes, such as Gumbo.
In my estimation, the ultimate Thanksgiving gravy depends on a properly made roux. It’s not difficult to produce and lends the gravy a roasted flavor dimension that can’t be obtained with a simple flour and water or cornstarch and water slurry.
Once you’ve tasted Thanksgiving gravy made this way, you will never want any other.
It’s All About the Roux
Because it takes about 30 minutes of constant attention to make a medium colored roux, I like to make a triple or quadruple batch and store it in the refrigerator. It keeps a very long time.
Most traditional recipes for roux call for a 1 to 1 ratio between the fat and flour. I’ve discovered that 1 to 1½ works just as well and has the benefit of decreasing the amount of fat needed to thicken the gravy, soup, or gumbo.
NOTE The flavor of deeply colored roux may be an acquired taste. If you are not sure whether you like this flavor, stop cooking the roux at a light camel color.
NOTE Even though unsalted butter is listed as one of the fats you can use to make a roux, clarified butter, oil, or poultry fat are somewhat easier to use, because the developing roux is a bit looser and doesn’t burn as easily. You can also take the roux to a deeper color with these fats, as they burn at a higher temperature than unsalted butter. For a light or medium colored roux however, unsalted butter works just fine.
½ cup unsalted butter, clarified butter, vegetable oil, or poultry fat (some folks even use bacon drippings or lard)
¾ cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
- In a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan or stove-top casserole, over medium-high heat, heat the butter, oil, or fat and whisk in the flour.
- Continue whisking as the roux goes from a light golden color, to a light caramel color, and then finally to a deep caramel color. If you see black specks in the developing roux, the flour is burned. Throw the roux out and begin again.
- Remove from the heat and continue whisking for another 4 minutes or so, until the roux stops darkening.
- Let cool, and then skim off any fat that has collected on top of the roux.
- Refrigerate until needed.
Makes about ¾ cup roux; enough for 1½ quarts of gravy.
Thanksgiving 24-Hour Gravy (Roux-Based Gravy)
This is the Thanksgiving 24-Hour Gravy I debuted many years ago for a family Thanksgiving dinner. It has become a sacrosanct tradition. Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without this gravy.
I call it the 24-hour gravy, because it takes the better part of a day to produce the stock upon which the gravy depends. If you have the stock prepared in advance, however, this gravy takes only ½ hour to make.
You need only a medium colored roux here, so the rich flavor of your turkey stock retains the starring role in the gravy.
½ cup medium colored roux (recipe above)
1 quart Brown Poultry Stock, warm
½ cup drippings from roast turkey, strained and fat removed
finely ground sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
- In a large saucepan, heat the roux.
- Slowly whisk in the Brown Poultry Stock and strained turkey drippings.
- Bring to a simmer, whisking constantly.
- Cover partially, and simmer slowly for 10-15 minutes, until gravy reduces slightly, and tastes full flavored and silky smooth.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Remove from the heat and keep warm until needed.
- You can also cool and refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for up to three months. Reheat when ready to serve.
Makes about 1 quart gravy.
Cookin’ with Gas (inspiration from around the web)
- Cooking Louisiana: Making a Roux
- Cooking Louisiana: Progressive Roux Colors
- Michael Ruhlman: How to Make Thanksgiving Gravy
- Michael Ruhlman: Turkey Gravy for Thanksgiving
- Sarah’s Cucina Bella: Fool Proof Herbed Turkey Gravy
- Steamy Kitchen: Making Roux
- The Jittery Goat: Recipe for Roux
- Wikopedia: Roux
Copyright 2012 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.