My husband’s biggest complaint at holiday dinners is that there is never enough gravy. I think that for the most part, he wouldn’t even miss the turkey as long as there was enough stuffing and gravy. Great gravy is also very forgiving of the worst of turkeys, whether overcooked or under-seasoned, and it all begins with a great stock.
If you are serving a whole turkey for thanksgiving, you can use the neck and the end part of the wings, which are rich in cartilage, to begin a stock. If you are only buying parts, such as a breast or legs and thighs, you should buy some wings and the neck to make your stock. Miloski’s Poultry Farm, out here on the North Fork, is a great resource for this.
This stock, as a slurry, is what you will whisk into the drippings of your roasting pan once you have removed the whole bird to a carving board to rest. Using this technique will result in a more flavorful gravy than one made from a slurry with water. If you have the remnants of a carved turkey the day after Thanksgiving, this will result in the best stock of all.
In most restaurant kitchens, bones are roasted before being started in a stock, which results in the best base for a flavorful soup or gravy. For this technique, check out our recipe for “Roast Chicken Stock”, and replace the chicken with turkey.
Two turkey wings
Any other poultry bones you have
One cup of leek or scallion greens
A cup of carrots, scrubbed and unpeeled
A cup of celery and celery leaves
A cup of shiitake mushroom stalks
Three to four bay leaves
Five cloves of garlic
1/4 teaspoon of thyme
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 quarts of water
You will need a large soup pot and a sieve or strainer.
Begin by sautéing the ingredients with the olive oil, all except for the water and bones. Then, add the bones and brown them. Resist the urge to salt anything, as this stock will need to reduce to half it’s size, and your stock will end up too salty.
Lastly, add the water and boil for up to two hours, until the volume has reduced to half. During this time, you can start your pumpkin cornbread–one for the stuffing, and one for the bread basket.
Once done, allow to cool, then strain into another large vessel. If not using immediately, ladle stock into quart size containers to freeze. The night before Thanksgiving, you should defrost the stock for use on Thanksgiving day.
Make as much of this as possible, since people love gravy and you certainly don’t want to run out.