Thinking Thanksgiving…

Ah… November… when visions of Thanksgiving dance in our heads. Nonna’s favorite holiday! It’s all about the FOOD! (and family) I don’t mean to say that we don’t take time to reflect on all the blessings for which we are grateful—we do—however, that is for another letter.

There was a time when I attempted to improve upon the traditional menu, some were good and some were maybe not disasters, but definitely not to be repeated—think cranberry stuffing. Cranberries just aren’t sausage!

The appetizers and desserts may vary, but the main menu is turkey, gravy, Aunt Annie’s sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.

You gotta plan if you want to ensure that everything gets on the table at the same time! Begin with making a list of the ingredients for each part of the menu and creating a shopping list (hoping that this will prevent a bunch of trips back to the grocery store for things forgotten). Oh yeah right, not to worry, this year we have Audra to make those last minute emergency runs!

After the menu and lists are completed, we create a schedule of what needs to be prepared and when. Figuring out what can be prepared ahead of time frees up The Day for fun and relaxation with family and friends. Since one of our favorite reasons for Thanksgiving is leftovers such as Turkey and Gravy on waffles, an important make-ahead is stock for the gravy. If you don’t do this, I can guarantee you won’t have enough gravy. This makes at least 10 extra cups of gravy… oh yum! This can be done several days in advance and refrigerated.

Turkey Stock for Make-Ahead Gravy

Roast 3 pounds turkey wings in a single layer in large roasting pans at 450 degrees for 1 hour or until browned. Remove wings from pan, add 1 cup water, and heat over medium-high heat, stirring to loosen browned bits. Remove from heat.

Heat oil in large Dutch oven, add and cook 5 minutes:

  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped carrots
  • ½ cup chopped celery

Then add:

  • turkey wings, pan liquid, 15 cups of water
  • ½ teaspoon peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4 parsley springs
  • 1 bay leaf

Simmer 3 hours or until reduced to 12 cups. Strain through a sieve over a bowl and discard solids. Cool, cover, and chill overnight. Skim solidified fat from surface and discard.

Yield: 12 cups (enough for 2 recipes of make ahead gravy)

Make ahead Gravy

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 5 cups Roasted Turkey Stock, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper

Bring 2 cups of the stock to a boil and reduce to ½ cup. Set aside.

Mix flour with 1 cup of stock. Melt butter, add flour/stock mixture and whisk till smooth.

Add remaining 2 cups of stock and the reduced stock. Stir and cook until thickened. Adjust seasonings.

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