The best, and sometimes the worst, part of our traditional Thanksgiving dinner was the gravy - it certainly was the most stressful. My mother was not a cook, having been raised in residential hotels. She liked good food, she just hadn't cooked it. Family lore told us that it took Mom three months into her marriage before she made .... JELLO! The poor woman isn't here to correct the record, but let it be known, she was only an adequate cook. Having said that, our paternal grandmother was very good having spent summers in her youth on her grandfather's farm in France, thus setting my father's expectations. Sauces and gravies were easy for Gram, who kindly taught the technique to Mom, but one can't say she ever got comfortable with the tricky process - especially when the standard was to be lump-free (sans strainer)!
When it was good, it was very, very good; when it was bad, it was horrid. My best memories of those holidays meals was when the turkey, mashed potatoes, and the stuffing were covered with savory, rich, delicious gravy - memories not easy to match when you're doing it yourself.
Last year I was given a cookbook called Make It Ahead in which I found a Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy recipe. For once I thought Ina Garten had gone too far. Even she couldn't figure out how to make the real centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner "Ahead". Well she did! Bisoux!
My sister and I both made this for the holiday to rave reviews, and recently I made it simply for a roast chicken. It works - every time, and is very hard to beat. It also removes huge amounts of stress and strain for the cook from an already stressful meal. This is a keeper, so keep it!
Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy with Onions & Sage
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 large red onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups good chicken stock, preferably homemade (or College Inn)
2 tablespoons Cognac or brandy
10 large fresh sage leaves
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
- Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the onion and garlic and sauté, stirring often, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the onion becomes browned and starts to caramelize.
- Sprinkle on the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 11/2 minutes.
- Stir in the chicken stock, Cognac, sage leaves, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour and strain, pressing solids lightly and then discarding them.
- Refrigerate until ready to use (up to a week in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer).
- After the turkey is cooked, remove it to a carving board to rest while you finish the gravy.
- Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over medium heat and add the wine.
- Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer 2 minutes, stirring and scraping up all the bits clinging to the bottom of the pan.
- Slowly whisk the gravy base into the pan.
- Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the gravy is smooth and slightly thickened.
- Taste for seasonings and serve hot.