Road trip 7: Making gravy in Manassas, Virginia


I don’t care what you have heard

On this I can give you my word

     Gravy I made

     With flavor first grade

From the broth of the Thanksgiving bird 

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  While my one-year non-compete clause ticks off I’m having adventures.  I’ve worked in Barrow, Alaska and Grand Island, Nebraska.  Currently I’m on a road trip from western Iowa to eastern Iowa by way of New York and Virginia.   

During my residency my friend, Les, now an FP in Anchorage, (see my posts from August) told me that a good broth would make a good sauce better than good drippings.  In one sentence, he brought my cooking a quantum leap forward.

To make turkey gravy, start simmering the giblets in 3 cups water in a covered sauce pan at the same time you start roasting the turkey.  Check the giblets from time to time, adding water as necessary.  You should finish with 2 cups of broth.  When the turkey is done, so are the giblets.  Add the drippings from the bottom of the pan to the giblets broth, and skim the fat if you want to.  Thicken with cornstarch:  add ½ cup cold water, wine or apple cider to ½ cup cornstarch (don’t try to add cornstarch to liquid, you’ll get frustrated), stir that mixture into the broth/drippings, and gradually bring it to a boil while stirring constantly.  The mixture will thicken suddenly.  You get lumps by adding cornstarch when to liquid too close to boiling, trying to warm it too quickly, or adding extra cornstarch after it has thickened.

I add a teaspoon or two of soy sauce.  Variations can include garlic, curry powder, ginger, lemon, basil, cilantro, you get the picture.  If you add an herb, don’t over do it.

But here in Manassas I made gravy without drippings.

No problem.

Once, decades ago I set out to make broth and got distracted.  I didn’t add water, and when I came back the broth had boiled away to glue and then the glue had started to brown.  Such accidents had happened before, but this time I stopped the process before the product burned.  I added water and tasted the accidentally delicious result.  I had succeeded in synthesizing drippings.

I put half the broth from the turkey giblets into a fry pan and reduced it over high heat till glue-like bubbles started to form, then turned down the heat and watched the color slowly turn to brown.  I added the rest of the broth, deglazing the pan, and thickened it with cornstarch.

The resulting gravy has almost no fat. 

During my poverty days I learned to make broth from whatever bones remained from whatever animal or bird had graced my table, a rare occurrence at the time.  Chicken or turkey giblets serve the function as well.  Put the bones in the slow cooker when you leave in the morning and when you return the broth will be ready. 

Or, after the Thanksgiving feast, separate turkey meat from bones, put the carcass into the slow cooker, and when you get up in the morning you’ll have broth ready to be frozen or turned into gravy, perfect for topping hot turkey sandwiches.

If you need calcium supplementation, add a cup of white vinegar to the pot where the bones boil.  The finished broth will contain the calcium but the vinegar flavor will have boiled off.

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