Like any other strange food (non) relationship, my fear of gravy starts with a traumatic experience. It was more then a few Thanksigvings ago when my sister and I were inspired, for the first time, to make gravy from scratch rather than from a packet of powder. I won’t go into our family’s long history with powder packets this time. Just know that there is one.
We had the turkey juices flowing, the the stock going, and when we finally decided to “thicken” the sauce to turn it into actual gravy, we drizzled the starch/water slurry to the pot.
We peered into the post expecting a golden, glowing, gorgeously thick gravy.
Instead, it was a bubbling brown stock with tiny “dumplings.”
The starch mixture didn’t thicken the gravy. It just clumped together when it hit the hot stock and formed what were essentially little spaetzle. We tried to stir more vigorously to mix it in. We tried to smash the dumplings against the side of the pan to “dissolve” them. We tried to strain the gravy through a colander back into the pot. Nothing worked, and in fact, whatever we did to fix it actually made the dumplings bigger. We were horrified. Laughing, of course, but still, horrified. My sister called them by a Korean word for flour dumplings, “soo jae bee.”
“We made turkey soo jae bee!”
I’ve gotten past the trauma just enough that I can make a gravy fairly decently now, but haven’t gotten over “turkey soo jae bee!” enough that when I’m faced with having to make gravy, visions of tiny starch dumplings raining down on me still make their way into my head.
Quick Turkey Gravy
from The Joy of Cooking
makes 4 cups
pan with juices and browned bits from roasting turkey
4 cups chicken stock or broth
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
salt and black pepper to taste
optional: Sherry, port, or Madeira
After roasting the turkey, remove the rack from the roasting pan. If the juice have evaporated, leaving only fat and browned bits on the bottom of the pan, carefully pour out the fat and discard it, retaining all the browned bits. If there are juices, tilt the pan and skim as much fat as possible with a spoon.
Set the pan on two burners over medium heat. Pour in 4 cups chicken stock (or broth). Bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits. Reduce the heat and simmer slowly for 5 minutes.
Mix to a smooth paste ¼ cup water and 3 tablespoons cornstarch.
Whisking constantly, gradually pour this mixture into the simmering broth, then simmer, whisking, for 1 minute. [Editor’s note: based on what you read above, you can understand why we left this thickening part out and opted for a thinner “pan sauce.”)
Season to taste with salt and pepper and Sherry/port/Madeira if using.
Pour into a gravy boat.