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ANNUAL THANKSGIVING HANDBOOK : GRAVY : Get the Lumps Out

November 19, 1995

It's fairly simple, really. But many of us serve gravy only during the holidays and could use a review of the basic technique.

For some, the most difficult part is separating the fat from the drippings, but when drippings are poured into a clear container, the fat always rises to the top.

For us, the most crucial step is deglazing the roasting pan before separating out the fat. This process makes sure all the browned bits from the pan are used; it's the secret to getting the best gravy flavor.

What stumps most people, however, is getting rid of the lumps. This can be done by making a roux, or gravy base of flour and turkey fat that is stirred until smooth before being combined with the rest of the gravy. Others make a slurry of flour and a small amount of water that is stirred together until smooth. The idea is to work the lumps out before the gravy is made. Then you don't have keep stirring at the end and can get the bird on the table.

TURKEY GRAVY

Neck and giblets from 1 turkey

1 onion, quartered

1 carrot, cut in pieces

1 celery stalk, cut in pieces

Whole peppercorns

1 quart water

Drippings from roasted turkey

Butter, optional

3 tablespoons flour

Salt, pepper

1/2 cup cream, optional

Place turkey neck and giblets (except for liver, which clouds the broth) in 2-quart saucepan with onion, celery and several peppercorns. Add water and bring to boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

Strain and reserve stock. Discard neck. Chop giblets, cover and refrigerate. (Note that canned chicken broth may be substituted for homemade turkey broth.)

Skim surface fat from turkey drippings in roasting pan. Add 1 cup reserved stock. Place pan over medium heat and scrape browned particles free from bottom with wooden spoon. Pour mixture into measuring cup and let fat rise to top. Skim fat off with spoon or specially designed measuring cup that allows drippings to flow from bottom of cup, reserving drippings and 1/4 cup fat and discarding remaining fat.

Place reserved turkey fat in saucepan or back in roaster. (If necessary, add butter if there's not enough fat.) Make roux by mixing in flour and cooking, constantly stirring, until bubbly. (Flour may also be added as slurry: Place flour in small bowl or measuring cup and, while constantly stirring, gradually add enough water to get smooth texture.) Remove from heat, still stirring until bubbling stops. Add 2 cups reserved turkey stock and stir vigorously to combine.

Return pan to heat and gradually pour skimmed drippings, through sieve if desired, into roasting pan, stirring constantly with wire whisk. Cook, stirring, until gravy boils and thickens. For thinner gravy, add more broth. If desired, stir in 2 tablespoons butter or, to make cream gravy, 1/2 cup whipping cream. Stir in giblets if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes about 2 cups gravy.

Each 1-tablespoon serving, without butter or cream, contains about:

20 calories; 67 mg sodium; 3 mg cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.05 gram fiber.

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