The one part of preparing the Thanksgiving feast that I’ve always considered daunting is making the gravy.
You can’t start it until the turkey is done, so that you get the drippings from the roasting pan. By that time, the little kids are darting past the stove and the adult guests — despite the positioning of the appetizers in another room — have planted themselves in your kitchen. It’s hard to concentrate on the task at hand.
Too bad you can’t make the gravy beforehand, right?
Well, guess what — you can! I was thrilled when I ran across this make-ahead gravy, from Southern Living (one of the best sources for recipes, if you ask me). The magazine says you can make this gravy up to three days before Turkey Day and it’ll taste just fine.
Here’s a couple gravy tips. When it says whisk, use a whisk! Sure you could do it with a wooden spoon, but you might end up with lumps. And if you do discover that gravy is lumpy, run it through a strainer. (Although honestly, when people notice imperfections like that in my food and comment on it, I just say in a very sweet voice: “That happens when you make real food, not stuff out of cans and bottles.” That quiets them quickly.) And don’t get too enthusiastic with that strainer; next thing you know, your gravy will be too thin. (If that happens, put in a little bit more flour and whisk.)
Here are a few more tips to help you get ready for Thanksgiving:
- This weekend probably is when you’ll do the bulk of your shopping. Make sure to check that list one more time.
- On the homefront, clean now. Don’t wait until Wednesday. You will have too much food prepping and cooking to do.
- Are little kids coming? Then get ready for them. Figure out a place that can be their hangout. (You cannot expect them to sit still like miniature adults for several hours. They’re kids!) Figure out what they can play with (yes, their parents should bring something along, but be ready in case they do not). Move breakables out of the reach of any careening toddlers.
- Check out your entrance. Is the entry to your home ready to welcome guests? Or is there a pile of shoes and backpacks, making getting inside a challenge? Move that stuff this weekend.
If you work outside the home, this weekend’s your last big chunk of time to get things done ahead of the weekend. Squander that time and you’re setting yourself up for a stressful holiday. No one wants that.
MAKE-AHEAD TURKEY GRAVY
MAKES 4 CUPS
2¼ pounds turkey drumsticks
3 carrots, cut into pieces
1 large onion, quartered
6 fresh parsley sprigs
⅓ cup vegetable oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
½ teaspoon pepper
Salt to taste
Brown drumsticks and veggies: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pat drumsticks dry. Cook drumsticks and next 3 ingredients in hot oil in a large roasting pan over medium-high heat. Cook drumsticks 3 minutes on each side; cook vegetables, at the same time, stirring often.
Reserve flavorful pan drippings: Bake drumsticks and vegetables in pan at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion of drumsticks registers 160 degrees. Remove from oven. Remove and discard vegetables and parsley using a slotted spoon. Reserve drumsticks for another use.
Whisk in chicken broth and stir until smooth: Whisk flour into hot drippings in pan, and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in chicken broth until smooth. Whisk in pepper.
Cook gravy to thicken and develop flavor: Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally. Reduce heat to medium, and gently boil, whisking occasionally, 45 minutes or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season with salt to taste.
TO MAKE AHEAD: Cool gravy 45 minutes. Cover and chill up to 3 days. Add a few tablespoons of broth, and reheat over medium heat.
PHOTO: Sun-Times News Media File Photo