Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gravy, the Lifeblood of Thanksgiving.

I remember the wine tasting days when the smarmy sales reps with a pallet of plonk to sell would slither into the restaurant and suggest serving a particular white wine, 'well chilled'; code for "this wine is awful, but, get it cold enough and the alcohol will be the only thing tasted."  Great for summer dining!

When it came to food, frying or 'Cajun style' was another method employed to mask a lackluster product.  A sorry piece of fish could be deep-fried and consumed with the right dipping sauce or coated with a searing blend of spices and incinerated in a piece of cast iron.  Once your taste buds were sufficiently muted, you could be eating a neighbors cat and find it just as pleasurable as the swordfish advertised on the specials board.

Sauces and gravies, too, were developed hundreds of years ago to enhance the...'wholesomeness' of dubious protein sources.  We've come a long way since then and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, thoughts of a sauce masking the meal are heretical.  Every morsel of the menu is delectable and made even more memorable by chairs filled with family and friends.  The sauce, the Turkey Giblet Gravy, is a stand-alone dish that could be featured as it's own course.  Maybe not worthy of a wine glass, but, you get the idea that the gravy can be the star of the show.  Actually, in our home, the gravy IS the star; all other dishes revolve around it.  Call it Grav-i-ty!

Our Turkey Giblet Gravy is so critical to the day, that when we sit down, at least one child will ask if enough was made. 
"We have to have some for tomorrow, ya know," Liam reminds us, "We can run out of turkey, but, coming up shy on gravy is a sin.  Y'ever tried it on a sandwich cold?  It's like spreading pate'..."
We even gave up on a traditional gravy boat years ago, and why not?  The frustration of attempting to ration the 12 ounces of volume for one spin around the table is simply unnecessary and counter to the joy of the day.  OK, we may put one down for the sake of a guest or to dust off a family heirloom, but, we will need a quart sized container in the center of the table to keep the peace and everyone in their seats for the first 20 minutes. 

"So, Dad, what are giblets anyways," one of the boys asked years ago.  Now, we all want to expose our children to new experiences, but, we sometimes have to use stealth and guile over the bright light of truth in selling the product.  There could be some damaging glare at a young age. 
"Meat bits," was the pat response, "and you like meat bits, right?"
As the boys got older and they were able to enjoy strange cuts of meat without a gag-reflex, we could let them in on the 'secret' of giblets: they are in fact the heart, gizzard and liver of a turkey.  When finely diced, saute'd with onions and celery, deglazed with white wine and blended into the pan gravy, they are mystical...Oi!  It just gives you the chills; 'goosebump good.'

The GREAT thing about making outstanding Turkey Giblet Gravy is that you don't need any special ingredients.  No trips to stores, special equipment, or expensive books are required, just your natural powers of observation.  When we do anything well in the kitchen, it behooves us to pay close attention with our senses of sight, taste and smell.   We will proceed in three steps: making a thickener (a roux), making a stock, and cooking our giblets.
Ready?  This is easy, fun and hugely rewarding.  You could become a family legend like my mom and her gravies.  I remember pretending to interview her one year in high school while she was making a pan gravy; we all laughed so hard.
And what are we making again?
Gravy, of course, but memories for sure.   

Turkey Giblet Gravy, yield 1 quart

Step 1: Make the thickener, the roux (roo), by melting one stick of butter or margarine.  Stir in about one cup of flour to make a wet sand texture paste.  The roux should not have any dry lumps of flour in it.  Set aside.

Step 2:   Create the pan juices (stock).  Remove the turkey from the roasting pan and set on a cookie sheet.  Take 2 cups warm water, pour in roasting pan and stir with a small whisk or metal spatula to get all the little yummy bits from the bottom of the pan.  Once the roasting pan has been thoroughly 'cleaned', pour contents into a 2 qt. sauce pot and set on medium heat. 

Step 3:  Dice the turkey liver, heart and gizzard into teeny-tiny bits, the size of a pencil eraser.  Dice half a medium onion and 2 ribs of celery.  Combine all in a pre-heated saute' pan and cook till onions are transparent.  Set aside.

Home stretch:  Add 2 cups milk to the stock, bring to a boil, and add the giblet mixture.  Reduce to a simmer and add half the roux, whisking steadily off the heat.  Once the roux has been dissolved, return to medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Adjust thickness with more of your roux if desired.
Adjust salt and pepper to taste.  Cover till service.

Pretty cinchy, huh!?
This is the stuff of which legends are made.
This is when you can taste 'The Love.'

Take care, God bless and remember:
"Food, Faith, Family and Friends,
the Best Things in Life aren't Things!"


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