The French will often tell you that the secret to a wonderful meal is in the sauce.
We always had a big party for Thanksgiving when we lived in the US, and since our family was not with us, we invited everybody we knew who could be alone on that day: students as well.
They often commented that my turkey gravy was excellent… So I’d like to share how I make it and being French, the secret is… the red wine of course!
1 – A Darker, Stronger French Gravy
Note, this gravy is not the typical white looking gravy but is a much darker color. It also has a lot more intense flavor but I personally think that turkey is pretty bland (no matter how well you cook it) so a strong gravy is a plus for me.
2 – Ingredients for the Gravy
A couple of things are needed to make this gravy:
- I usually roast my turkey on a bed of roughly cut up vegetables (carrots, onions, a bit of celery, some sprigs of rosemary…) and once the turkey has cooked, you are of course left with all the fat and the caramelized vegetables and juices which will add more flavor to the gravy than just the meat juices.
- Your roasting pan should be metal so that you can put it on the burners while you work on the gravy (you can sort of do it with a ceramic pan but it’ll be a lot of work getting all the nice brown sticky parts that have all the flavor transferred to another pan – and more clean up!)
3 – My Turkey Gravy, Step by Step
- So when your bird is ready, take it out of the pan and let it rest on a carving board. Cover it up loosely with foil so that it stays warm (but not too tight so as not to start steaming the crispy skin!).
- Now remove most of the fat from the roasting pan, as well all the loose vegetables. I usually set some of the fat aside in case I need it later but I usually end up discarding it (better be safe than sorry).
- Put the roasting pan over 2 burners on a low flame and add about a glass of good red wine (like a beaujolais or Côtes du Rhone if you want French wine: nothing too fancy, but wine you would actually enjoy drinking).
Start scraping all the good bits from the bottom with a wooden spatula. These bits are pure gold, so take your time and make sure to get as much as you can off it.
At this point, the smell of the red wine and the roasting pan juices mixing together will get a few people to come see what’s going on in the kitchen :-)
- Now that the bottom is well scraped, add another glass of wine and another 1 or 2 glasses of chicken stock depending on how much gravy you want to make (in my experience, gravy is a huge success and there’s never any left for left-overs so make a lot more – why fight over it?).
- Bring the burners to medium-high and let the liquids reduce for 5 minutes.
- While this is happening: in a bowl, make a slurry by combining 1 to 3 tablespoons of flour and some hot chicken stock, depending on how thick you like your gravy. Whisk and make sure that there are no lumps (“des grumeaux”).
- Adjust the pan gravy’s seasoning if needed, and then you can either transfer it directly into a sauce pan or, if you want to remove even more of the fat from it, use your own ‘fat separator’ or this amazingly simple technique
- Turn on the heat to low under the sauce pan and slowly add the flour slurry to it, while mixing with a whisk. (I prefer to make it on the side so that I can make sure to avoid the lumps in a ‘controlled’ environment instead of directly into the pan. If you have some lumps, just use a sifter as you pour the slurry back into the pan.) Note: this step is optional, in France, we tend not to thicken the roast juices, but I know that northern Americans like their gravy on the thicker side.
- Now let it cook and thicken for another 2-3 minutes, and then it’s done!
Bon Appétit (Bon ap’ for short…)