Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thanksgiving is Coming Turkey Gravy

I am afraid that this is a rather poor image but alas this is all there is. This is the planter with the bay/laurel tree. these grow all over the place in Italy. They use them for hedges and topiaries, much the same way we might use hollies or other evergreens. I was always stripping the trees there and dropping them in sauces when I got home. I could always say that the bay flavor in this sauce was from Hadrian's Villa or the Roman Forum etc.
John had a day off after a long period of working every day. He decided that he wanted Thanksgiving now while he had a chance to show our new room mate Nathan a nice day. He bought a Turkey breast. That, of course was not going to yeild a lot of liquid for gravy. So, I had to remember an old recipe that would give us some nice gravy by supplementing it with other ingredients. I started the gravy and while I looked on I made Nathan do most of the grunt work.
I like a thin gravy and some like a thick gravy. Use your common sense with this using my measurements for a thin gravy and adding more flour for thick. You could also mix a bit of cornstarch into cold broth or water and stir more into the thin gravy if you want it thicker. Cornstarch gravies are OK if you like to do them, but there is nothing like the gravies made with flour for a more Old Fashioned taste.
Having the herb garden in the yard makes all the difference in this and similar recipes. Taking a walk out to the herb garden in the back of the yard gives you a pleasant break through all the rush of cooking a big meal, and the flavor of fresh herbs is so much nicer. Remember though, dried herbs, though definitely inferior, can be quite strong compared to the "un-condensed" fresh versions. It sometimes really looks like you are using way too many herbs when using fresh, but be brave and don't skimp.
If you do not have the herb garden, or the frosts have taken them already, get a big concrete Planter...Really big!, and fill it with nice soil and transplant your favorite herbs or buy new herbs to plant in it. Find a nice south window and put it there for the winter. Remember that many herbs like a slightly dry and inhospitable atmosphere compared to houseplants. Do not over water or over fact you might not want to fertilize at all. Over fertilized plants can produce lush but flat tasting herbs. I have three planters in the living room in the winter. One has my four foot tall Bay tree, one has Sage, and the third has a mix of plants. The smaller planters are about 18 inches tall and round. They have an embossed pattern of oak leaves on the sides in a foot wide band. The big planter is oval, about three feet long and 16-18 inches high. It has a renaissance pattern of rose garlands on the side...very Italian looking. They can go outside as garden features in the Spring.

Go out to the garden to collect at least a dozen leaves of Sage. While you are there, don't forget Lovage to add to the stuffing, Chives for most anything and Parsley for garnish as well as here and there throughout the meal.

See...Isn't that fun already?

With canned mushrooms:

In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter(You want this to be very rich.)

Add one diced yellow onion and saute on medium heat till the onions begin to break down. Add three whole or chopped garlic cloves and continue to cook after two or three minutes more, add one small can of mushrooms drained. Stack the sage leaves and slice crosswise in 1/4 inch slices. Add to the pan. Continue to cook till the scent of the sage becomes obvious. Add 2 tablespoons of white flour(unbleached is always best) and stir constantly to cook the flour for a couple of minutes.

You should have drained the baking juices from the turkey or chicken by now, and put them in a separator if you have one. If you don't (shame on you) skim the fat off the juices. Add enough chicken broth to make about two cups. When the flour is cooked, pour all the juices into the pan at once and stir till all is smooth. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat stirring often till the gravy thickens...You may add another tablespoon of butter at the end to make it look glossy. salt and pepper to taste.

With fresh or dried re-hydrated mushrooms:

Mince one and a half cups of the mushrooms fairly coarsely, but if you are using exotic wild mushrooms you may want the pieces to be a bit larger to be recognizable. Start with the butter as before and add the mushrooms and onions at the same time allow them to cook and brown just as in the first case above. You may need to add more butter, as the mushrooms will absorb a lot of butter and liquid. Add the garlic near the end of the frying time so it will not have a chance to burn. Continue as above.

About the Garlic. In my family, we fought for the cooked garlic cloves in the spaghetti sauce, in the roast drippings etc. We adored the garlic cooked that way. The garlic is very mild when cooked that way. It has none of the sharpness that garlic haters abhor. If you just cannot deal with the big pieces of garlic, mince them up and be sure to watch that they do not burn.

You could always make this with just chicken stock and use it as a baking sauce for pork, chicken, veal or turkey dishes. It might be lost in a beef dish.

You can easily substitute THYME or CALAMINT(Very Italian with mushrooms..ask your nursery man) for the sage, but do not mix the two.

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