Thanksgiving Menu Mailer Part 3 – Gravy Train
Okay, on to more Thanksgiving dinner…now we’re getting down to the meat and potatoes, so to speak. You can easily copy and paste all of these Food for Thoughts into one document for easier viewing and then copy them off.
Hitting the Gravy Train
Okay, the turkey has been removed from the pan and is resting comfortably. Skim the big greasy globs of fat from the roasting pan and place in a medium sized saucepan (there should be about three tablespoons or so of fat, depending on the size of your bird). Next, take an equal amount of Wondra flour and add to that turkey grease (I know this sounds yucky, but you have to trust me). The heat should be about medium high and you need to whisk away to your heart’s content until the roux (pronounced ROO) is golden and thick, and naturally lump-less. This roux procedure will take you all of five minutes-very easy, you can’t mess this up. Set your beauteous roux aside.
Now back to the roasting pan. Add a cup of your reserved turkey neck stock to the roasting pan and turn up the heat (you will probably need two burners for the job) and bring it to a boil. Using your wire whisk, scrape up all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Those browned bits contain concentrated turkey flavor that will make your turkey gravy absolutely to die for. Don’t skip this step. Now add all the golden roux in the saucepan you just made and whisk like your life depended on it. In just moments, a beautiful, velvety bronzed gravy should be emerging and filling you with the joy of accomplishment.
I am an admitted snob when it comes to gravy making, but even cookbook authors have their limitations when it comes to making enough turkey gravy. Truth be told, a turkey doesn’t make as much gravy as necessary for the gravy hounds undoubtedly sitting at your very holiday table. You know the types-they use three ladles of gravy on their potatoes alone before even tackling the turkey on their plates. It is because of them that I came up with this trick. Actually, I take that back. My sister did this and I was shocked at how good it was. I didn’t know she had done this at the time or I probably would have thrown myself prostrate on the stove begging her not to ruin the gravy. Here’s what she did: she added a package of dry turkey gravy mix (and the accompanying water) to her already made gravy. No one was the wiser-including me! I was amazed at how much gravy she had and too, was thrilled that I (an admitted gravy snob, plus a hound myself) was able to amply ladle gravy without being scolded about “saving some for the next guy”. She told me about the sneaky gravy extension trick after I had polished off Round One of The Meal and noticed there was still gravy left. I nearly needed smelling salts when she told me what she had done. I tried this trick at home and it is simply fabulous. This kind of mix stuff I will do on special occasions.
Muzzie’s Fabulous Stuffing
Serves 12 (with leftovers)
Muzzie is my mom, affectionately nicknamed this silly name (it means “confused” in the dictionary-I promise, I only found that out because I like crossword puzzles) by yours truly when I was a smart- mouthed kid. It stuck and now the whole world calls her Muzzie (although a few just go by plain, Muz). Muzzie is a great cook and for many years I tried different gourmet recipes for stuffing, all homemade, none with a mix, but none ever came out better than my Mom’s. Could be for sentimental reasons, but she definitely has a fan club at my house when it comes to stuffing!
1 box (2 envelopes) of Mrs. Cubbison’s Stuffing mix (on the East Coast, use Pepperidge Farm–NOT the cornbread kind, the regular bread kind)
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 large onion chopped
1 good handful of parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 (14.75 oz.) can chicken broth (you won’t need the whole thing–as needed)
1 pound bulk breakfast sausage
First off, cook the sausage in a skillet with about an inch of water, over a medium high heat. You won’t be frying it-you’ll be poaching it. Use a potato masher to mash the sausage into smallish pieces. You want it thoroughly cooked and not browned and greasy, and not into tiny bits either. Poor any remaining water off. In a large mixing bowl, add sausage and remaining ingredients except the chicken broth. Toss everything together and add a little chicken broth a bit at a time to get a soft texture. You will use about a quarter of a cup of chicken broth or maybe a little more, depending on how dry your dressing is. You want it moist, not drenched. Definitely don’t soak the stuffing/dressing with chicken broth. Save any remaining broth for the gravy.
Place dressing in a casserole dish to be baked later. Use the rest for stuffing if you plan on stuffing your bird.
Orange Cranberry Sauce
Serves 12 (with leftovers)
4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (1 pound bag)
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup orange juice
Rinse the cranberries (even if they are frozen) in a strainer with cool water, and remove any stems and bad or blemished berries.
In a large saucepan, over medium heat, heat the water, juice and sugar to boiling stirring occasionally. Continue boiling 5 minutes longer to assure sugar is completely melted, stirring occasionally.
Add the cranberries. Heat back to boiling over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Put a lid on the saucepan and continue boiling about 5 minutes longer, still stirring occasionally, until you hear the cranberries begin to pop. Remove the saucepan from the heat, give it a good stir and allow to cool for about 20 minutes. Pour the cranberry sauce into a bowl or container and allow to completely cool before refrigerating.
Good Old Fashioned Mashed Potatoes
12 good sized Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
salt and pepper to taste
Fill a large pot with water and as you prepare the potatoes, throw them in after quartering them. After you are finished, drain the water if it looks dirty or murky and fill it up with fresh water. You need to adequately cover the potatoes, but there should be at least a couple of inches of cooking room.
Place the pot of potatoes on a burner, turn up to high and get the potatoes boiling. You can put on a lid on it (it will boil faster) but stay in the room so it doesn’t boil over. When it starts to boil, bring the heat down to a simmer and cook until fork tender (about 20 minutes or so, depending on how big your potato quarters are).
Now carefully drain that heavy pot. See if you can draft a big burly guy to do it for you. If not, please be careful!
To your steaming pot of potatoes, add butter. How much, well I don’t want to be quoted on how much I use on Thanksgiving (hey, it’s a special occasion!), let your conscience be your guide.
Next, salt and pepper to taste and add about 1/2 cup of milk. That’s a starting place. Now pull out your potato masher and put some elbow grease in it or get the big burly guy to do it. DON’T use the electric mixer on these gems! Potatoes have gluten in them and when you over handle them (as in whip the daylights out of them with an electric mixer), the gluten develops making your lovely mashed potatoes look more like wallpaper paste that needs thinning. Don’t go there! Use an old-fashioned potato masher or potato ricer (same kind of deal, only there are little holes in the bottom instead of the usual zigzag pattern of the normal potato masher).
FlyLady does her potatoes earlier in the day(about an hour before the meal) and puts them in a crockpot on low with a little butter on top to keep them from drying out (and the lid on too, of course). I think that is ingenious. However, one word of caution is that with so many variables with crockpots, you need to make sure yours will work for this task and the “low” setting isn’t too high. My old one works for this job, my new one is too hot. See what I mean? Test run a small batch first if you are able.