Why? Because my mother makes it this way.
I follow her general method, but have come up with three simple things that for me have ensured success every time:
- I make a thick, smooth mixture of flour and water and have it handy in case the gravy just won’t thicken.
- I keep a good-sized strainer nearby as well. Using it to strain out lumps is not against any cooking law that I know of.
- If one uses a raw flour-and-water thickener, be sure to let the thickened gravy cook at least 15 minutes. It will take on a satiny-sheen when the flour is thoroughly cooked.
Here is my gravy method:
First, siphon off 1/4 cup of the turkey fat from the roaster. Pour it into a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add to it a generous 1/4 cup of flour. Turn on the heat and stir the mixture until the flour is lightly browned. Now, add 4 cups of liquid. I like to use warm broth made from simmering the turkey giblets and neck with herbs and an onion, while the turkey is roasting. You may also save 1 or 2 cups of the potato water, which adds flavor and nutrition, or warm up 1 quart of chicken broth. De-greased juices from the turkey are good, too. Anything that will give the gravy a full flavor.
My mother would actually take the turkey out of the white-speckled blue roaster and pour off all but that 1/4 cup of fat. She cooks the flour in the remaining fat in the roaster, set over a burner over medium-low heat. She scrapes up the pan bits and then adds the liquid gradually, whisking. Her gravy always seemed to thicken just fine, but I always run into trouble right about here — hence the flour/water paste to help thickening. Just add some of this gradually, whisking all the while, until you notice the gravy getting thick. When it is about where you want it, stir a little longer, then let it cook another 15 minutes or so. If it gets too thick, add a little more warm liquid.
This method generally means no lumps, or very few, in the gravy. But, again, if there are lumps, there is no shame in employing that strainer.
I like to season gravy with plenty of salt and a little white pepper. The cooked turkey giblets might be cut up and added at this point. I actually don’t like giblets — except in gravy at Thanksgiving!
Finally, I usually make more dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy than I know I will need at the Thanksgiving meal. That is because I dearly love to make a casserole out of sliced turkey, smothered in gravy, topped with dressing (and some more gravy) and then mashed potatoes. Put a couple of these in the freezer. This dish tastes fabulous reheated in the oven and served on a cold night in January.