Turkey Gravy, But No Drippings?

It’s been a dozen years since we’ve oven-roasted turkey, preferring to deep-fry in peanut oil. The flavor was fabulous, in part owed to the spices injected 24-hours before frying. But when the peanut oil became far more expensive than the turkey, it was time to move on to a brining and grilling phase of turkey-experimentation, using our Traeger wood pellet grill. This year, we skipped the brining portion (we ran out of time!), and just flopped the turkeys (barely rubbed!) onto the Traeger wood pellet grill.

Juicy Tender Turkey

We shouldn’t have been surprised, but we were, that the turkeys came out every bit as flavorful and juicy as when they’d spent 24-hours in a brine. I know it helped that our turkeys were organic, pastured (think grass, sun, bugs, running through the cow fields), giving them a huge advantage over factory-farm corn & soy fed creatures. The other credit is absolutely owed to the Traeger grill’s convection oven style of cooking which does a better job than other type of grills, sealing in the juices.

Now, to the problem. Whether deep-frying or grilling, we never had “yum yums” – Emeril’s term for caramelized bits of fat and meat, loaded with rich flavor – left over on the bottom of a oven-roasting pan because, well, we no longer had a roasting pan. No roasting pan meant, no gravy.

As much as I love Trader Joe’s, (wouldn’t have moved from California to New England if Trader Joe’s hadn’t been here) even their ready-made organic gravy just didn’t satisfy our cravings. What to do? Experiment.

Cutting off the wing tips from the turkey, loaded with meat and great fat, bringing great flavor to the gravy, and using the neck and organs, I pan-seared the organs and wing tips, as well as vegetables, in a little oil and butter, caramelizing the sugars in the meats and vegetables, providing a richer, full flavor.

I threw in wine, because, well, that’s what the French would do, but for good reason as it cuts the fatty acids, changing their structure which makes them fuller in flavor and less “heavy” on the tongue.

Finally, and this is the step that I think makes a huge difference, is the use of roux – flour and melted butter cooked together and then adding to a liquid. This ensures the flour isn’t raw, too often the case in most other gravy-making methods, a flavor that has the potential, decades-later, to be remembered, but not in a good way. Now, while several of my relatives think back, wondering which Thanksgiving they had gravy-making duties, I’ll move on…

Another beautiful part about making roux? You get to choose the level of color – from light to dark brown – as well as the intensity of the “nutty” flavor that results from cooking butter and flour together, giving your final gravy a pleasing, rich color as if you took full advantage of all pan juices.

Gravy Collage

No Drippings Turkey Gravy
Makes about 6 cups.

This recipe builds on flavors – first, roasting of the organs and wing tips along with vegetables, maximizing their sugars and fats, and then adding them to previously made thick, rich home-made chicken stock (or turkey, if you had bones you happened to save in your freezer from your last turkey!). Next comes the simmering of spices with the stock and meat juices, while a roux is cooked to perfection, ensuring the flour is no longer raw, and has reached its full thickening potential. While you may leave out the white wine, it has the added benefit of adding yet another level of complexity of flavor.

Caveat: It’s assumed that all ingredients are organic, locally-raised, if possible, the meat and dairy pastured (grass-fed) and organic, raised by a local farmer utilizing proper feeding practices, avoiding soy, and only limited amounts of grain.

Gravy Foundation

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 package turkey giblets and neck and wing-tips
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup rough-chopped carrots
  • 1 cup rough-chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup celery greens (optional: I dehydrate these and always have them on hand)
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups home-made chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup dry white wine (yes, dry – sweet would ruin it!)
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 8 parsley stems

Roux

  • 6 T butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (use hard white winter wheat, if grinding)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

  1. 3 T brandy or cognac (optional)

Directions

  1. In a 2 qt. saucepan, over low heat, melt 2 tablespoons, add olive oil; NEVER reaching a smoke-point.
  2. Add organs and wing tips, sauteing over medium-low heat until medium-browned – 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add onion, carrot, celery with a pinch of sea salt
  4. Stir often, low-heat, until onions are translucent – about 10-minutes.
  5. Add remaining ingredients (EXCEPT the roux); cover and simmer on low for about 2 hours. This can be extended to 2 1/2 hours, but make sure you don’t condense the amount of liquid to less than 6-cups. Add more broth, if necessary.
  6. Strain solids from the liquid.
  7. Throw vegetables away, and chop the meat (strip meat from neck, finely chop giblets) if desired, returning it to the liquid.
  8. Return liquid to burner, flame on LOW.
  9. Meanwhile, make the roux in another 2-qt. saucepan: melt butter, stir in flour, salt, over medium heat STIRRING CONSTANTLY, until roux turns deep brown – not as dark as chocolate, but more like the crust of a beautiful loaf of sourdough bread – about 8-10 minutes.
  10. Using a ladle, gradually move liquids into the roux, stirring constantly between additions, ensuring a smooth gravy, STIRRING CONSTANTLY with a whisk to prevent lumps.
  11. When the last of the liquid has been added, continue heating for another 5 minutes, stirring often.
  12. Serve.