Food & Drink

How To Make Turkey Gravy

Making gravy at home doesn't have to be a chore, says chef Katherine Polenz of The Culinary Institute of America.

Homemade Gravy Recipe

The first step is to create a roux, which means mixing fat with flour. You can use the turkey pan drippings for this step, or use a combination of butter and oil. Heat the butter/oil mixture in a medium pan until it shimmers, then sprinkle in flour and stir until it becomes a paste. Keep stirring and cook the roux for 3 to 4 minutes, so the flour loses its raw taste. (Be sure to stir constantly, or the roux may scorch.)

Next, switch to a wire whisk, and ladle in small amounts of turkey stock. The roux will seize up slightly, so it's important to whisk constantly at this point, or you'll get lumps. Keep adding stock and whisking until the gravy begins to come together and takes on the consistency you prefer. When the gravy is smooth and coats the back of a spoon, Chef Polenz adds a bit of Madeira wine for flavor and seasons with salt, pepper, a bay leaf, and a sprig of fresh thyme. (You can also add chopped-up giblets and the turkey neck meat if you want extra flavor.) Let the gravy simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, then finish with another splash of Madeira. Transfer to a gravy boat and you're ready to serve.<

I'm Chef Katherine M. Polenz, from the Culinary Institute of America, and today I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to make turkey gravy.

The first step in making this turkey gravy is going to be to take either the drippings left over from roasting the turkey, or a combination of butter and oil, and just melt it together. Once these fats have gotten hot, kind of shimmery, I'm going to add flour. The combination of the fats and the flour together are what we call roux, and roux is used commonly as a thickener for all sorts of sauces and soups. I'm using about two to three ounces of oil and butter combined, and I'm going to spoon flour in, in a couple of additions, and stir that in. I'm looking for the flour and the fats to form a bit of a paste.

Now we have the fat and the flour together and it's made this kind of paste. I'm going to cook this for about three to four minutes, stirring it almost non-stop to make sure it doesn't scorch. Once I start adding the turkey stock I'm going to switch from a wooden spoon to a wire whisk. This is to make sure that I have lump-free gravy; this is everyone's trauma, it seems, when it comes to making sauce, that it gets lumpy. You can see why here in just a second: with the first addition of stock, what was kind of a smooth flowing paste becomes this really thick mass, and that's because there is so much starch now in proportion to the amount of liquid. Now I've added a little bit more stock and I'm going to whisk that again until it becomes smooth. I'll keep whisking stock into this until it forms the consistency of finished sauce that I'd like. With each successive addition you have to whisk it until it becomes smooth again. I don't have a heavy glob now; I'm getting this consistency that's beginning to flow, and that's a good sign.

At this point I'm going to add a little bit of madeira wine. Madeira is a fortified wine that goes really well with turkey. It's good to add a little bit of this midway through the simmering time, to cook out the alcohol. Then it's nice to add a little bit right at the very end, so you have a nice fresh fragrance from the madeira.

When you keep adding the liquid and allowing the sauce to return to the simmer, eventually the starch and the liquid come into kind of a harmonious balance, and you bring it to the consistency that you like for your palate. The liquid that I'm using for today's sauce is premade turkey stock that we've fortified with turkey parts. What this gives me is a very flavorful turkey-rich stock, so that my sauce will have really good flavor.

I'm done whisking at this point. Now I think I have a sauce that I would consider to be a good texture. It coats the back of a spoon. I'm adjusting the heat to low to allow for a gentle simmer. Now would be an appropriate time to season: a little salt and pepper. We don't add the salt and pepper too early because there will be some reduction, and that creates a concentration of flavor, so initial salting should be kept to a minimum. I'm going to add one bay leaf and a sprig of fresh thyme; just put that in the sauce to add a a nice herbal component.

Some people like to use giblets and the meat from the neck, to go the real old-fashioned route for their turkey sauce at Thanksgiving. These could certainly be chopped up into little tiny bits, and added to the sauce. If you were going to do that, right now would be a good time to add them in, because that gives enough time for them to cook into the sauce and give more flavor.

Now it's time to just let this sauce go to a gentle simmer for about thirty minutes, stirring it every four or five minutes just to be sure it's not sticking. When you're all done, you can take the sauce directly into the gravy boat and to the table.

The gravy's been simmering for about thirty minutes now, and when I pull it up on the back of the ladle you can see that it has a certain sheerness to it; it clings to the back of the ladle, it makes a nice coating. That's another clue that we've got a sauce that is the correct consistency. It's nice to finish the sauce with just a splash of madeira. We don't want to put too much in at the very end because there will be kind of a big burst of alcohol that comes off the raw madeira, but we just stir that in at the very end, and the sauce is ready.

At this point the turkey sauce is very, very aromatic, it smells fabulous from the use of the fresh thyme, the bay leaf, and the madeira -- and there you have a basic turkey gravy fit for any Thanksgiving.