When it’s time to make gravy for the turkey, I make it the same way my mother always made hers. Why? Because her way is simple (important when you have so many other things to think about) and it’s delicious—rich and full of flavor. Here’s how she does it: While the turkey is roasting, she makes a broth from the turkey’s giblets and neck. When the turkey is cooked, she hoists the bird onto a serving platter and covers it with foil. She pours the liquid left in the pan into a large measuring cup so she can separate the juices (which sink to the bottom) from the fat (which floats on top). She skims off the fat with a large spoon. Most of it gets thrown away, but a few tablespoons go back into the roasting pan, along with some flour. She whisks the flour and fat over medium heat, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. These are juices that have caramelized during roasting; they add a ton of flavor to the gravy.
To this roux, she adds the reserved pan juices, the giblet broth, and some chicken or turkey stock if she’s feeding a crowd (and with four sons, she usually is). She gently simmers the gravy for 10 minutes to cook away the floury flavor and thicken it slightly. A little taste, a little salt and pepper, and the gravy is ready to be strained into a saucepan or gravy boat.
Make a broth from the giblets and neck. Add a halved onion, about 20 small sprigs of parsley, a bay leaf, and enough water to cover. Simmer gently for at least 1-1/2 hours.
My mother can probably make her gravy blindfolded, and she probably doesn’t even think about all the techniques involved. But if you’re new to making gravy, it’s good to keep a few things in mind so that yours will be as good as hers.
Don’t let the drippings burn. The drippings are the liquid fat and juices released by the bird as it cooks. If the juices land on a roasting pan that’s too hot, they can burn. To prevent this, use a heavy-based roasting pan that’s just large enough to hold the turkey. If the pan is too big, the area not covered by the bird will get too hot. A too-thin pan can also cause burned juices. If your pan is too big or too flimsy, coarsely chop an onion or two and sprinkle it around the turkey in the pan to act as a heat absorber. If you do this, leave the onion out of the giblet broth.
Be sure there’s ample gravy. There’s an unfair relationship between a perfectly cooked stuffed turkey and pan drippings. If a stuffed bird is cooked so it’s nice and juicy, there may not be enough of the delicious juices—the liquid left in the pan minus the fat—to make enough gravy. (Ironically, an overcooked, unstuffed turkey releases lots of juices.) This means you often have to add extra stock. Homemade giblet broth (see how-tos in the photo at right) is best, but you may have to supplement with homemade or canned stock. If using canned stock, use a low-sodium one or the gravy will be salty. To decide how much stock to add, measure the juices with the giblet broth; add stock to get the amount of liquid you need (see Gravy Math, below).