Turkey gravy, bread stuffing can be made ahead

| Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2006

Fear not, novice cooks. There's a way to make good turkey gravy without having to open a jar or can, or use a packaged mix. And part of it can be made ahead.

In her book "Happy Holidays from the Diva of Do-Ahead" (The Harvard Common Press, $14.95 paperback), cooking instructor Diane Phillips says her procedure "will make you the gravy champ in your family."

The base can be made ahead and frozen or refrigerated, so clip this recipe to use for Christmas dinner. This can be doubled or tripled, and leftovers freeze well.

She also has an easy stuffing recipe that can be varied to taste.

Make-Ahead Gravy

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth or turkey broth
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Drippings from the turkey pan

In a medium-size saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook over medium-high heat until the flour is incorporated and white bubbles begin to form on the top of the roux. Cook the roux for 2-3 minutes after the white bubbles have formed, whisking constantly.

Gradually add the broth, whisking constantly and stirring until the gravy is thickened and comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.

At this point, you can cool, cover and refrigerate the gravy base for as long as 4 days or freeze for as long as 6 weeks. Thaw before proceeding.

On Thanksgiving Day, heat the gravy in a medium-size saucepan. When the turkey is done, pour off all the pan drippings into a jar or fat separator. Skim or spoon off the fat and discard. Add the drippings to the gravy base and bring it to serving temperature.

Makes 4 cups.

Note: If you grill, smoke, deep-fry or brine a turkey, you won't have suitable drippings to stir into the gravy base. If this is the case, roast a chicken or chicken parts, which will give nice caramelized drippings that can be frozen, then stirred into the turkey gravy.

To keep the gravy hot, consider a thermal gravy carafe or other thermal container, or keep it warm on low in a slow cooker. Or, pour boiling water into a gravy boat about 15 minutes before serving and let it sit. Pour the water out and pour in the gravy -- the container should remain warm for about 30 minutes.

For thicker gravy, make a paste of 1 part flour to 1 part softened or melted butter, kneading the flour into the butter, using a tablespoon. Whisk some of it into the gravy after adding the drippings. Bring back to a boil after each addition, and add more until the gravy is thickened as desired.

Perfect Turkey Gravy from a Can or Jar

Here is a way to perk up bottled or canned turkey gravy, from Campbell's Kitchen.

  • 2 cans (10 12 ounces each) turkey gravy
  • 6 tablespoons drippings from the turkey pan
  • 14 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 18 teaspoon ground sage
  • Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Heat through.
  • Makes 2 12 cups.

Old-Fashioned Do-Ahead Bread Stuffing

Diane Phillips offers this recipe for easy stuffing with variations. "I've never met a stuffing I didn't like, and this simple stuffing flavored with sage, thyme, onion and celery can be jazzed up with your favorite additions."

She urges cooks to use stale bread and dry it out in the oven, then add the herbs, instead of buying herb-seasoned dry bread cubes. "The difference in effort is small, but the difference in flavor is huge," she writes. Choose a premium white sandwich bread such as Pepperidge Farm, including the crusts.

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage, or 1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 12 cups stale dry bread cubes
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 12 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 12 to 2 cups chicken broth, as needed
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • Turkey drippings or more butter, for basting, optional

Over low heat, melt 2 sticks butter in a large saute pan. Add the celery, onions, sage and thyme and cook until the onions are golden.

Place the bread cubes, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add the celery mixture, tossing to blend.

Pour the broth over the bread mixture and add the egg. Stir to blend.

At this point, you can cool, cover and refrigerate the stuffing for as long as 3 days or freeze for as long as 1 month.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat the inside of a 3-quart baking dish with vegetable cooking spray. Transfer the stuffing to the baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, basting with turkey drippings or more butter halfway through the cooking time.

If you use the bread mixture to stuff the turkey, it is done when an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees in the center of the stuffing.


While sauteing the onions and celery, add any of the following:

  • 1 pound sliced mushrooms.

  • 12 pound crawfish tails.

  • 12 cup chopped dried apricots.

  • 12 cup dried cranberries.

  • 1 dozen oysters, chopped.

  • 1 cup pecan halves.

  • 1 cup giblets, poached in broth or water for about 30 minutes, drained and finely chopped.

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