Making gravy is one of those fundamental culinary skills that establishes the informal boundary between knowing what you're doing in the kitchen as opposed to not (or at least not yet). Not that it's so difficult — in fact, it's pretty easy.
But that's my point. It requires a relatively modest level of competency to move from that second group into the first, which, since you're reading this site, is presumably where you want to be.
Transforming a thin stock or broth into a rich, velvety-thick sauce that grabs onto your food instead of dripping through the tongs of your fork and back onto your plate is a kind of culinary magic — at least where flour and butter are involved.
Furthermore, performing this act of alchemy on Thanksgiving is like hitting a home run in Game 7 of the World Series — there is no grander stage when it comes to dinner. If you can cook up a yummy, flavorful gravy on Thanksgiving (especially when so many turkeys turn out so dry these days), you'll earn yourself the equivalent of a ticker-tape parade.
So: What's going to happen is you're going to make a paste of butter and flour called roux, then add your stock or broth (plus the pan drippings from your turkey) to the roux, and then cook the sauce until it's thick and smooth.
Now, here's the most important information you need to pull this off: Make sure your stock or broth is warm but not boiling.
And not cold, either. And the same goes for your roux. If your roux is too cold, or if your broth is too hot, you'll end up with lumpy gravy. Basically, both your roux and your stock should be warm — not too hot or cold.
Here's what you'll need to make about 4 cups of gravy
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter and 45 grams flour (about 5 tablespoons)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Mesh strainer
- Pan drippings from a roasted turkey (optional)
- 3-4 tablespoons chopped carrots, celery, and/or onion
- Warm the stock. Heat four cups of stock or broth in a saucepan over a low to medium heat, just until it's warm but not boiling. If you have the pan drippings from a roasted bird, add them to the stock or broth, but be sure to drain off any excessive amounts of fat first.
- Sauté the veggies. Melt four tablespoons of butter (or the fat from Step 1 above) in another saucepan over medium heat. If you have carrots, celery, and/or onions: Chop them up (about a tablespoon of each for every cup of broth you're using) and cook them in the hot butter or fat until slightly browned but not burnt.
- Make the roux. Stir the flour into the pan with the hot butter (with or without the veggies) to make a paste called a roux. Cook for a minute or two, until the roux is a golden brown color, then let it cool until it's warm but not cold.
- Whisk in the liquid. Slowly pour the warm stock or broth into the pan with the warm roux, whisking the mixture as you add it. Return to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and reduce the sauce by about a third.
- Season and serve. Strain the gravy through a mesh strainer. Season to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper and serve.
- A bay leaf will add flavor and aroma to the gravy. You can add a bay leaf to the stock or broth while you are first heating it up, or add it to the gravy in Step 5 before reducing it.
- Add a finely minced clove of garlic to the carrot-celery-onion mixture in Step 2.
- You can hold the gravy on the stove for a while, but it may continue to thicken. If this happens, just thin it out with some more hot stock, broth or water.