Last minute check: Do you know how to make gravy? Some people swear that gravy is the most essential part of Thanksgiving dinner, touching everything on your plate with its savory essence of turkey. No pressure, right? Here are a few tips and links for making your own gravy — it's really not that hard. First of all, what is gravy? It isn't some mysterious liquid essence of turkey (as we used to think it was, since we were never involved with this part of the Thanksgiving meal. Gravy was Grandma-territory.). It's simply stock or broth, mixed with pan drippings if you want, and thickened with some turkey fat (or butter) and flour (or cornstarch, or stuffing). So all it is, really, is a basic roux sauce, which we use all the time for pasta and casseroles.
The simplest sort of gravy starts with butter and flour, and assumes you have no homemade pan drippings or turkey stock. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When the butter foams up, sprinkle in two tablespoons of flour and a pinch of pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until the butter and flour mixture begins to turn brown. Whisk in 1 1/2 cups of chicken, vegetable, or turkey broth, and whisk constantly until the sauce begins to thicken and bubble. Take off the heat, season with salt and pepper, and serve!
This is a very, very basic flour-thickened gravy, and of course you can make far more elaborate and delicious ones, but this is a start.
If you want to dress it up a bit, drain off the turkey drippings from the pan, and heat up in a saucepan then sprinkle enough flour on to make a paste. Cook as above, until the flour browns (this helps reduce that icky raw flour taste) and then whisk in turkey stock. Cook until thickened, season and serve.
For instructions on making turkey gravy, here are a few more good links.
• Recipe: A Proper Chicken Giblet Gravy - Do exactly the same thing, except with turkey giblets. (Or skip the giblet stock altogether and just use turkey stock.)
• Recipe Review: Turkey Gravy from Scratch - A review of an elaborate recipe from the Times, with some helpful notes and comments.
• Technique: Thickening Gravy with Stuffing - A tip from Shirley Corriher.
• Good Gravy! Separating the Grease - Tips on getting non-greasy gravy.
How do you make your gravy?
Stylish boats for all that delicious gravy:
• Do These Float Your Boat? Stylish Gravy Boats
• Get Your Gravy On: More Gravy Boats
(Images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan; Elizabeth Passarella)