Thursday, November 19, 2009

Let's Talk Turkey Gravy

Making gravy has never been my favorite activity; it makes me nervous. My grandmother made great turkey gravy, and my brother Greg picked up the baton and makes it the way she did, which I just couldn't describe for you. I know it involves whisking in flour.

Then four years ago Bon Appetit magazine published an article by Alton Brown (Food TV) on Thanksgiving Day turkey and I was saved from turkey gravy hell. The link below is to his stock and gravy recipe. The gravy secret is using schmaltz manié as your thickener. Definition time: schmaltz is rendered poultry fat, usually from chicken. Manié is French, referring to the hand. The usual incarnation is beurre (butter) manié, where soft butter and flour are kneaded into a paste (by hand) and whisked into cooking liquid for thickening thereof. But Alton is making schmaltz manié, where we make turkey fat & flour balls!

The first time I tried this I made the turkey stock per his instructions and it turned out great, with enough schmaltz to make the paste I needed. Last year I tried it again and for some reason - no schmaltz! What a shock! So I used butter - beurre manié. It was delish, and buttery, but still turkeyish. This year I don't have time to make turkey stock so I will be using Swanson's organic chicken broth. I am going to see if I can squeeze turkey schmaltz out of the turkey drippings this way: lift the roasted turkey out of the pan and cover it with foil. While it's resting I will pour all the drippings into my fat separator. (I like my Oxo fat separator. Don't bother with a small one, it never worked well for me.) The fat will go into the freezer to cool off and stiffen up. I'll use the schmaltz to make schmaltz manié, and make up the difference with butter. You have to be able to weave and bob in the kitchen!
Since I won't be making my stock, I am planning to roast the turkey with the aromatics in the pan to flavor the drippings: onions, celery carrots, thyme. Whisk in the schmaltz manié thoroughly, adding a piece at a time until you have the desired thickness. Be sure to cook until
it no longer tastes like flour. It's easy. This gravy is smooth and flavorful with a white wine reduction. Alton Brown's complete instructions are here. If the link doesn't work, just go to and search schmaltz manié. It's a piece of cake, uh turkey.

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