Easy, Rich Turkey Gravy is a low-fuss, no-frills, lower-stress method for delivering fantastic gravy for a crowd on Thanksgiving or Christmas. It starts with a flavorful turkey stock and delicious pan drippings from your roasted turkey.
My mom tells a story about my late grandmother being deathly ill (many years before she actually died). In movie-dramatic form, Momma grabbed her hand and sobbed that grandma couldn’t die until she told Momma her gravy recipe. Even in her awful condition, Grandma laughed.
Although my Easy, Rich Turkey Gravy is not based on Grandma’s recipe, the story illustrates a point. To many, gravy is scary. In fact, I’ve been told that it’s common practice for a guest to show up to Thanksgiving or Christmas Dinner bearing a jar of prepared gravy. And that hosts are delighted. Whaaaaaat?! Making gravy involves some steps and attention, but it’s really not that hard. This is especially true of Easy, Rich Turkey Gravy.
Considerations for making Easy, Rich Turkey Gravy
Among the conundrums faced by the aspiring gravy maker are: Giblets or no giblets? Eggs or no eggs? Roux or slurry?? Flour or cornstarch?!?! I have tried just about every iteration of these questions that you can imagine.
I am not a fan of giblets. But I do chuck most the stuff from the packet into a pot of boiling water to make stock. I also add the turkey neck, a couple of turkey legs, onion, celery, dried mushrooms, and herbs . I strain out the nasty bits later. If you like giblet gravy, then by all means reserve and shred the cooked giblets to add to your final Easy, Rich Turkey Gravy.
I realize that many people add hard boiled eggs to their gravy. However, when I gave it a try, the eggs—in my opinion—completely destroyed the flavor with their sulfur-y taste. They also ruined the texture. So no eggy gravy in this house.
A flour slurry does the thickening job quite well, but you run the risk of your gravy tasting floury. Cornstarch slurries yield nicely thickened, silky gravy. In my opinion, though, the flavor is not as rich as it could be. To achieve maximum richness and to capture the essence of all things turkey, my go-to gravy begins with a roux.
Thanksgiving dinner at the Frank house requires fountains of gravy. I learned this the hard way from one of Phil’s brothers, who has gained notoriety for the amount of food he can blithely put away. And then go back for more. And then have three helpings of dessert. His preference is to eat gravy like soup, with the turkey and side dishes floating inside. (I exaggerate, but only a little.)
For this reason, I buy a few extra turkey legs and thighs and put them in the toaster oven with butter and herbs.
This gives me plenty of extra drippings.
I probably have about half a gallon of gravy by the time it’s all said and done. I highly recommend this strategy so that you have extra drippings and juices on hand just in case.
This nice thing about easy, rich turkey gravy is that there’s not a ton of hands-on work. The stock simmers in the background, requiring very little attention while turkey and turkey thighs roast.
Things gets a little more intense when you pull the turkey out of the oven. While the turkey is resting, you prepare the pan juices. Then, about 10 minutes before serving, you make the easy, rich turkey gravy. Although this part takes only about 10–15 minutes, it requires a lot of whisking and stirring.
I usually set aside a couple of cups of my easy, rich turkey gravy right away to put directly into the refrigerator. This way, the gravy-crazy brother-in-law can’t get to it and we have some gravy with our turkey dinner leftovers. Win-win!!
This recipe makes enough delicious turkey gravy for a crowd of 12–15. Sometimes, despite my best efforts, I need to make more gravy, which is when the extra drippings are a lifesaver. These extra turkey drippings, if you have any and don’t need to make more gravy, can be frozen for a couple of months.
- Giblets and neck from packet in turkey cavity
- 2 turkey legs
- 3 cloves of garlic peeled
- 2 celery stalks cleaned and broken into large pieces
- 2 leeks white part only, cut into large slices and washed
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- 5 sprigs thyme
- 3 sprigs parsley
- 2 sprigs sage
- 2 tsp. black peppercorns
- Kosher salt to taste
- 1/2 cup white wine you can omit the wine and use 1 cup of broth instead
- 1/2 cup chicken or turkey broth
- 4 turkey thighs
- 4 tbsp. butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- several sprigs of fresh herbs rosemary, sage, thyme
- 6 cups of hot turkey stock + pan juices to equal 8 cups*
- 6 tbsp. fat from turkey drippings add butter if you don’t have enough*
- 6 tbsp. all-purpose flour
Place all ingredients into a stockpot (I start with 2 large pinches of salt). Add 12 cups of water. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat. Simmer for ~1 hour, or until reduced almost by half. Remove the vegetables and discard. Remove the giblets: reserve if you like them (I don’t) and mince finely. Remove the neck and turkey legs and reserve. Pick off the meat, chop finely, and reserve for the gravy (if you like it meaty). Strain the stock through a fine-meshed sieve at least once, discarding any additional solids. To be extra careful and remove any grit, strain the stock through the sieve again—but this time, line it with cheesecloth, paper towels, or coffee filters.
If you need extra drippings (i.e., in addition to those you'll get from your turkey), preheat toaster oven to 400º (if you don’t have a toaster oven, do this the day before in your oven; save the drippings in the refrigerator). Rub turkey thighs with the butter and season liberally with salt and pepper. Place in a small roasting pan and top with herbs. Place the roasting pan in the toaster oven (or oven) and roast for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350º and continue roasting for 2 hours.
Remove thighs from oven and take out of roasting pan: you can shred this meat to add to your turkey platter.
Set the turkey roaster on the stovetop over medium-high heat, spanning 2 burners if necessary. Pour the wine and stock into the pan and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, for 2 minutes or until the liquid has reduced slightly. Pour the mixture into a fat separator and let sit for a few minutes until the fat rises to the top. Alternatively, you can a) pour the mixture into a measuring cup, put it in the fridge, and let cool for 30 minutes. You should be able to scrape the fat off the top. Add the fat to a large saucepan. OR, b) pour the slightly cooled mixture into a Ziploc bag. Allow the fat to rise to the top, then snip off a tiny corner of the bag while holding it over a bowl. Drain the juice into the stock, and add the fat (on top) to a large saucepan.
In a large saucepan, heat the turkey fat over medium-low heat. Sprinkle in the flour, whisking continuously until the mixture takes on a blonde color, 4-5 minutes.
Very slowly add in your stock and pan juices: at first, working one ladle at a time, whisking vigorously to incorporate it completely into the roux so that you don’t get lumps. Continue slowly adding the liquid until you added it all. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, still whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed with salt & pepper. Serve in a tureen or gravy boat.
If you like giblet gravy, add the giblets to the stock as it simmers, then remove them, shred, and add to the final gravy.
If you like a meaty gravy, shred and chop some meat from the turkey thighs and add to the final gravy.
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