Thanksgiving's more than a meat and potatoes meal, but gravy makes it a feast

November 09, 1994|By Mary Malouf | Mary Malouf,Universal Press Syndicate

On our family Thanksgiving table, there were usually three types of gravy -- plain brown, giblets and white oyster. When you were asked which you wanted, the correct answer was "a little of each."

Gravy is basically a mixture of pan drippings and stock thickened by a roux (a paste of flour and fat) or by flour and liquid.

Gravy should be smooth and rich as cream, redolent of the meat or fowl it is made from: The best gravy is made from strong stock.

A roux's thickening power is in the flour; for some gravy, you want to let the flour brown for the added nutty flavor. But the more it browns, the less it will thicken. For turkey gravy, don't let the roux color much, but just bubble enough that you know it's well mixed. For Oyster Gravy, don't let the roux color at all.

Making gravy is still a mystery to many home cooks. It needn't be; just keep these in mind:

* Good gravy is made from good turkey. So baste that bird with butter and encourage all the drippings to collect in the roasting pan.

* Never add hot liquid to cold roux. The reverse is not as disastrous, but everything should be hot.

* Use a whisk to stir.

* Use flavorful stock. Luckily, turkeys come with built-in stock-making ingredients, so while the turkey is roasting, put the turkey neck and giblets in a saucepan with a carrot, half an onion and a stalk of celery.

Cover with about 2 cups water, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer till the meat is falling off the neck. Let cool, then strain the stock and reserve. Remove any meat from the neck. In a pinch, you can use canned chicken stock.

Low-Fat Gravy

Makes 1 cup

1 cup defatted turkey broth

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 cup skim milk

salt and pepper to taste

Heat broth in pan over medium heat. Combine flour and skim milk in jar and shake until mixture is well-blended and free of lumps. Add to broth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick. Add salt and pepper, reduce heat and cook and stir to desired thickness.

Note: Pour broth in a cup and refrigerate. The fat will rise to the top and harden for easy removal. Or use a fat-separator cup.

Per 1/4 cup: 26 calories; fat: trace; no cholesterol; 143 mg sodium; 2 percent calories from fat.

Traditional Pan Gravy

(with or without giblets)

Makes 2 1/2 cups

4 tablespoons turkey drippings

4 tablespoons flour

2 cups stock or water (divided use)

salt and pepper

cooked, chopped giblets (optional)

Reserve drippings. Whisk in flour and stir over low heat till well combined, smooth and starts to bubble. Add 1 cup stock, stirring constantly, till it bubbles and thickens. Season with salt and pepper. Add chopped cooked giblets, if desired. As gravy cools, it will thicken. When you reheat, whisk in more liquid slowly.

Per 1/4 cup: 65 calories; 5 g fat; 5 mg cholesterol; 108 mg sodium; 76 percent calories from fat.

Oyster Gravy

Makes 2 1/2 cups

1 pint shucked, fresh oysters

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup cream or milk

salt and pepper to taste

Drain oysters thoroughly. Reserve liquid. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add flour, stir and cook until mixture is bubbly. Slowly add warm cream. Add drained oysters. Stir very gently just till edges of oysters curl. Then thin gravy, if necessary, with reserved oyster liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Per 1/4 cup: 144 calories; 10 g fat; 76 mg cholesterol; 249 mg sodium; 65 percent calories from fat.

French-Style Gravy

Makes 1 1/4 cups

4 tablespoons turkey pan drippings

1 1/2 cups turkey stock

splash of red or white wine

salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet over high heat, boil all ingredients hard until mixture thickens slightly. Season with salt and pepper. Strain and serve.

Per 1/4 cup: 106 calories; 11 g fat; 10 mg cholesterol; 109 mg sodium; 91 percent calories from fat.

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