Thanksgiving gravy is a must-have on the feast table. This delectable and versatile sauce is made to elevate everything it touches on the plate, and reflect the savory flavors of the perfectly roasted turkey that just made its debut on the table. Obviously, that means you’ll be using the fresh pan drippings, right? As if the host wasn’t frantic enough with cooking, reheating, plating, and serving; Now they have to make a last minute gravy. Pass. You can save yourself trouble and still get that rich turkey flavor by freezing your gravy now and adding pan drippings later.
For the past two years, I’ve hosted friendsgiving. That means catering a feast in my petite New York City apartment kitchen. I like a challenge. I usually make my gravy from a mixture of store bought turkey stock and fresh pan drippings after the bird comes out of the oven. It’s delicious, but it’s hectic (some might say “chaos” is a better word?). Call me smart or call me old, but I’ve decided this year I can have it all—low-stress gravy and rich flavor from pan drippings. This requires making a roux-based brown gravy now, freezing it, and reheating it on the big day with flavorful turkey drippings.
Brown gravy is made of a few primary ingredients: butter, flour, and a brown liquid—usually broth or stock. All of these things freeze and thaw well. (White gravy is made with the addition of milk or cream, and that can break when thawing.) While freezing a roux base of butter and flour is a gravy hack itself, you can take it a step further and make a freezable full gravy. Make a roux, and whisk in enough broth to make a gravy that’s a bit thicker than you’d usually make it. This accounts for the turkey drippings that will thin it out later. Season the gravy, and allow it to cool to room temperature. Pour the cool gravy into a freezer-safe zip-top bag and freeze it flat, or with a pencil to portion it.
On Thanksgiving day, break apart the frozen gravy (you can defrost it slightly by putting the bag in a bowl of warm water), add it to a pot, and reheat it over low heat. Whisk it smooth. Store the warm gravy in a thermos to keep it hot all day. When the bird finally comes out of the oven, your gravy is ready and waiting for concentrated turkey juice. Decant and defat the hot drippings. Pour the gravy out of the thermos and into a pot. Gradually whisk in the turkey drippings. When you’re happy with the thickness, stop pouring.
Pour the gravy into a serving vessel; the excess can stay on the stove. Or might I suggest pouring it back into the thermos? It makes for an easy top-up of the gravy during dinner.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 ¾ cups of turkey stock or broth
- 1 teaspoon of beef boullion base
- ⅛ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 2 or 3 grinds of fresh black pepper
- ½ cup to 1 cup defatted turkey drippings (stir in after reheating)
1. In a large measuring cup, add the turkey stock and the beef bouillon base. Microwave the liquid until it’s steaming, about two minutes. Stir to dissolve the bouillon.
2. In a medium pot, cook the butter and flour over medium-low heat. Whisk them together until they make a smooth paste, and cook it for one to five minutes, or until the mixture becomes golden brown and smells toasty.
3. Slowly add the hot liquid in four installments, whisking constantly. Whisk the mixture smooth before adding the next amount of liquid. Once all of the broth is in the gravy, turn off the heat, and stir in the onion powder, soy sauce, and black pepper. Allow the gravy to cool to room temperature.
4. Pour the cooled gravy into a freezer-safe zip-top bag. Freeze it flat.
5. When needed, take the gravy out of the freezer. You can thaw it slightly by leaving it on the counter for 30 minutes, or running warm water over the bag. Break the gravy into pieces and add it to a pot. Reheat the gravy over low heat. When you can, whisking frequently to break it up and smooth it out. Whisk in as much of the turkey drippings as you need to thin out the gravy to a consistency you like.