Roast turkey is a classic North American holiday dish. It’s the toughest one though. Brine your bird. Cover it with tin foil. Butter under the skin. Roast it in pieces. Stand on your hands while the turkey roasts. Wear a yellow tie. Lot’s of advice out there on how to make a decent bird. I have my own opinion (of course:-). What saves bad turkey and elevates turkey done right into superstar territory is the gravy. And there’s no secret here. Anyone can do it. Concentrated homemade turkey stock. It’s the silver bullet that will make your gravy the one your mother-in-law raves about.
There aren’t a lot of ingredients in turkey gravy. Fat, flour, stock and the pan drippings and fond. You can’t do much about the fat. Flour is flour so that leaves two. You can help yourself by roasting your bird unstuffed and making a really good dressing instead. Stuffing is a double whammy. Is soaks up all the goodness that would otherwise end up in your gravy and it makes it harder to roast a turkey evenly. It’s tasty though. I get why you try. Don’t think it’s worth it though. Some battles you just can’t win…
So what’s left? The stock. That is the one place you can take your gravy from average to awesome. Concentrated homemade turkey stock. Really concentrated turkey stock. A flavour explosion. 10 times more concentrated that regular homemade turkey stock. 10 times better gravy. 100 times better than that giblet water. All that mouthfeel. All that flavour. It’s literally an order of magnitude better. And it is impossible to botch. Unless you can’t boil water.
It takes a big pot to make a little stock. I start with a about 7 quart stockpot. Wind up with 3 cups of the concentrated stock. Takes a little planning though. Start this the day after you serve your turkey. If you can’t get to it for a few days, toss the carcass into a bag and freeze it. You are making gold out of lead. Magic even. Before you call me crazy, try it. Just once. Then tell me what you think. What your mother-in-law thinks…
- leftover turkey bones - the whole carcass if you have one
- turkey necks, wings and backs - as will fit in a big pot - 5 lbs or more
- 2 onions - halved. Leave the skins on
- water to cover
- Trim as much fat from the turkey parts as you can. Place them in a large pot along with your leftover carcass.
- Add the onion halves and cover with water.
- Simmer, loosely covered, until the turkey bits are tasteless. You want all the flavour in the water and none in the meat. This can take 12 hours. Add water as needed along the way.
- Once the turkey bits are tasteless, start reducing. You want to get somewhere around 3 cups of liquid. When you get down to 3 cups remove the onions, sprinkle them with a bit of salt and try them. They are the cooks treat.
- At this point, remove the big bones from the pot then strain through a colander.
- Defat as best as possible and pour into a freezer proof container. Place the container in the refrigerator and let the fat separate.
Remove fat, cover and freeze until your next roast turkey dinner.
If you are doing this for the first time and don't have a turkey carcass, just use turkey parts. That works great.