One of the biggest challenges on Thanksgiving day is producing a silky, deeply flavored gravy amidst the chaos of final preparations- pulling the turkey and dressing out of the oven, mashing potatoes, putting the finishing touches on vegetable dishes, and garnishing the turkey platter. To avoid this chaos, I decided to create a make-ahead gravy with all the good tastes of the traditionally prepared sauce, and I am thrilled with the results
Both a cousin and a sister-in-law stick to gluten-free diets, so I added gluten-free constraints to the challenge of formulating the perfect gravy, but, the recipe is also great with more customary wheat flour too.
The crucial step to this sauce is cooking up a rich turkey stock at least 1 day before the feast. I purchase extra turkey necks, brown them in a Dutch oven, cover with water, and let the brew bubble for a few hours. Meanwhile I am blanching green beans, simmering the cranberry sauce, and cutting up carrot and celery sticks to use as dippers for the butternut squash hummus I will put out as a starter on Thanksgiving (look for that recipe tomorrow).
Chill the strained stock overnight, and a layer of opulent turkey fat will rise to the surface. All the elements needed for a great gravy are now ready, without having to fight a scorching roasting pan while family awaits the feast.
For irresistible flavor, I add a big splash of fortified wine- dry Marsala, dry Sherry, or Port, and for luxury, sautéed mushrooms. Chanterelles are in season, and I intend to be at the farmers’ market early to gather a bag full, however, shiitake or button mushrooms are excellent choices too.
Make-Ahead (Gluten-Free) Mushroom Gravy
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4-5 pounds turkey necks and/or backs
- Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 fresh thyme sprigs
- 3 fresh tarragon sprigs
- ¼ cup turkey fat from the stock
- 5 cups turkey stock
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 6 tablespoons rice flour for a gluten-free gravy or ½-cup wheat flour for a traditional gravy
- ½ cup dry Marsala, dry Sherry, or Port
- ⅓ cup whipping cream
- 1- 1½ pounds mushrooms: chanterelles, shiitake, and/or button, sliced about ⅓-inch thick
- 1½ tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
- For the turkey stock: Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the turkey necks with salt and pepper. Add enough necks to the pot to form a single layer without crowding, and cook until brown, about 10 minutes per side. Transfer to a bowl. Add the remaining necks and cook the first side until brown. Turn, add the onions and cook until the necks and onions brown, about 10 minutes longer.
- Return all the necks to the pot. Add enough water to the pot to cover the bones by about 1 inch (about 4 quarts). Add the bay leaves, and thyme and tarragon sprigs. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover partially and simmer until the stock is richly flavored, about 4 hours. Cool slightly.
- Strain the stock into a bowl. Refrigerate overnight, or up to 3 days.
- For the gravy: Skim the fat from the surface of the turkey stock and reserve. Warm 5 cups of the stock in a small saucepan just until melted. Remove from the heat.
- Melt ¼ cup of the turkey fat and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Gradually sprinkle in the flour, stirring constantly. Stir until the flour starts to brown, about 4 minutes. Gradually whisk in the turkey stock. Add the Marsala and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and boil gently until thickened to a light gravy, about 12 minutes. Mix in the cream and simmer until thickened slightly, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and rosemary. Sprinkle the mushrooms with salt and pepper and sauté until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. (The gravy and mushrooms can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the gravy and let stand at room temperature.)
- Rewarm the gravy over medium-low heat, whisking occasionally. Mix in the mushrooms, minced thyme and tarragon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.