Secret to success of Thanksgiving is in the gravy

Do you remember your last family meeting?  You all exchanged sheepish glances, a chair scraped the floor, a relative started to get up, then sat down, and finally, you stood up.

You had been busy keeping your child’s fingers out of Uncle Bud’s toupee and missed the part about the first person to stand up would be cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Not to panic you but when was the last time you made gravy?  You say you can not remember?  Unless you grew up in Erma Bombeck’s family where gravy was considered a beverage you may have only made it twice in a whole year.

No other holiday feast celebrates the importance of good gravy and not to put a large guilt complex on you but pay attention here; we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

Lumpy, bumpy, pale, or runny gravy does not have to be!  Give yourself a little time and try this quick practice recipe.  Take one tablespoon butter, one tablespoon flour, and one cup chicken broth.  Heat the butter in a skillet when melted, slowly sprinkle the flour on top and stir with a wire whisk briskly until the flour and butter are well blended.  Stir in vigorously your cup of broth and cook on medium heat.

Now don’t run off and do a load of laundry.  It’s when you turn your back that the lumps emerge.  It honestly doesn’t take much time, just a lot of patience.  You need to stand by your gravy and stir it—constantly.

Now, if you have kept stirring you should have smooth and thickened consistency—and really it took you the length of one song on the radio.  And without even knowing it, you have also learned the basic rules for creating any brown sauce and the versatile cream sauce: white sauce.

Butter, flour, and milk create a white sauce nothing short of miraculous for there is no end to its variations and uses.  One tablespoon of flour for one cup of liquid gives a thin white sauce.  Three tablespoons of flour for one cup of liquid will provide a very thick white sauce.  Remember that the sauce thickens immediately after the flour is added, with patient stirring, of course.

Now don’t be flatten by Aunt Em’s pesky eyes over your shoulder on Thanksgiving, make our gravy the night before!  It will be our secret but believe me; you don’t have to wait for the drippings in the pan to have rich dark brown gravy.

The 1950’s moms knew that before there was Kitchen Bouquet the only way to get that nice rich brown color in gravy was to cook the flour thoroughly with the fat.

After taking the cooked turkey out of its roasting pan, all the juices from the pan are poured into a cup so that the fat would rise.  The roasting pan is set on the stove over low heat, and about four tablespoons of fat are added, stirred and cooked while the brown bits left in the pan are loosened.

The ¼ teaspoon of sugar added (to help with the flavor and browning) cooked and stirred until brown.  One quarter cup flour was added to the fat and slowly stirred until a rich, dark brown.  The heat increased until the gravy was at the boiling point, still stirring.  Then the heat is lowered, and the gravy left to simmer 5 minutes.  Seasoned with salt and pepper.

Unfortunately, today we are all too aware of fat.  Are you afraid of gravy because of the fat?  Believe me; you can still make a great gravy with some or none of the fat.

Next time you roast a chicken, take ½ cup chicken bouillon and ¼ cup water mixed.  Spoon this over your chicken every 15 minutes during the cooking.  After taking the cooked chicken out of the roaster, add the juice of one lemon to the drippings in the pan.  Scrape and stir then season to taste.  Easy gravy.

For a clear gravy, perfect over a frittata, use either chicken or beef bouillon and thicken it not with flour but with one tablespoon cornstarch.

To make gravy for stews just mix measured flour and cold water.  I prefer to use cold milk or even cream to make a smooth paste.  Pour this mixture into your stew, cook until thick.


4 cups chicken broth

½ cup dry white wine

¼ cup water

1/3 cup cornstarch

½ teaspoon pepper

In a saucepan, mix cornstarch with ¼ cup water until smooth; add broth, wine, and pepper.  Stir over high heat until boiling, keep stirring about five minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  For a roast use beef broth and red wine.

Be creative with your gravies, don’t just season with salt and pepper.  Try adding thyme, marjoram, lemon juice, red wine or even a trace of instant coffee.  It will make any meal special.


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