With the big Thanksgiving feast right around the corner, some of you may be looking forward to delicious food, good company with family or friends and a long nap after the tryptophan starts kicking in.
Some, however, may be dreading the get-together at someone’s home that isn’t known for their culinary prowess.
Not only do some have to listen to Aunt Betty complain about her bunions, or Uncle Hank imbibing Lambrusco like he’s going to the chair — and getting progressively louder telling stories about the good old days when coffee was a nickel — but they know that soon enough, dinner will commence.
I can almost taste it — lumpy mashed potatoes, gummy dressing, cranberry from a can and a turkey so dry you’re not sure if it’s meat or a Birkenstock sandal.
Thanks to the great French Chef, Auguste Escoffier, we have some help making the turkey at least taste good with one of his Mother Sauces called Veloute.
In America, at Thanksgiving, we call it gravy.
There are five basic Mother Sauces from which a countless variety of sauces are made: Bechamel (heated milk thickened with roux — think Alfredo sauce); tomato sauce (pizza sauce, marinara etc.), espagnole (brown stock thickened with roux and tomato puree); Hollandaise (buttery sauce thickened with egg yolks — think eggs Benedict) and last but least, Veloute.
Veloute is stock made from chicken, turkey, veal or fish then thickened with a mixture of flour and butter, also called a roux.
It’s the perfect accompaniment for roasted meats like chicken and turkey; it’s very easy to make and this sauce will even taste good on a golf shoe.
Gravy is rarely an exact science, nor is it the same result every time.
If you’re using pan drippings, you probably won’t yield the same amount of liquid every time.
If you’re using a turkey base added to water, different brands have different profiles.
The rule of thumb I follow is if I have pan drippings, I use all of them, then add water or stock to balance the flavor.
If I don’t have drippings, I will buy turkey stock or broth already made (chicken stock will work too).
So tell everyone you’ve got gravy detail this year, say hi to Aunt Betty and bring her some ointment for goodness sake.
In a saucepan add:
4 cups turkey or chicken broth. If you have 2 cups pan drippings, you only need 2 cups broth
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste, may not be needed
Bring to a boil.
While the stock is heating up, it’s time to make the roux.
For the roux:
In a sauté pan over medium heat add:
6 tablespoons butter, let melt and start to bubble
Then add 6 tablespoons flour and continually whisk.
The roux will start to bubble and this is key to cook the glutens out, or your sauce will be grainy.
After a few minutes of stirring, set the pan aside.
When the stock is boiling, start carefully adding the roux with a whisk a little at a time while constantly whisking.
The broth needs to be boiling or the roux won’t thicken properly.
Add a tablespoon of the roux at a time.
Continue to whisk and wait for a minute to see how thick the gravy gets.
You most likely won’t need all of the roux.
If you add it all, you may have Thanksgiving spackle on your hands.
After you’re satisfied with the viscosity, strain it through a fine mesh strainer, adjust flavor with salt and serve.