Ads for gravy mixes and jarred gravy have always cracked me up. I remember making gravy when I was little enough to need a step-stool to reach the stove. Yes, making gravy is literally child’s play. If you have long been making gravy using flour or cornstarch as a thickener and you are on HEAL’s low-carb protocol, you’ll wonder, “How can I make gravy without them?” It’s easier than you think.
You will need a new thickener, and either xanthan gum or guar gum serve admirably serve. Both are flavorless, finely-milled soluble fibers, widely used as thickeners in the food processing industry. They are interchangeable for our purposes. When guar or xanthan comes in contact with liquid, it swells and thicken it. Unlike cornstarch or flour they have no starchy carbohydrate in them, only fiber. This means they have no effect on blood sugar. Also both guar and xanthan gum are far more powerful thickeners than flour or cornstarch, so less is needed. You can buy guar and xanthan gum at your local health food stores, or like everything else, from Amazon.com. Once you’ve chosen your thickener, fill an old spice shaker with it. As I’ll show you, you’ll want to be able to sprinkle it lightly on your basic gravy stock.
Now to make gravy: While your Thanksgiving turkey is roasting, put the neck, gizzard, and heart in a saucepan, and cover them with water. Bring to a simmer, and let them cook gently until they’re tender, at least a couple of hours. Keep the water topped off to keep them submerged. When they’re tender, drop in the liver, cover the pan, and turn off the burner. The residual heat will cook the liver without overcooking it.
When the turkey is done, remove it to a platter and tent it with foil to keep it warm, leaving the roasting pan on the stove. Turn back to the pan drippings; a lot of nice, crusty brown stuff will be stuck to the pan, along with a liquid mixture of watery juices and grease. You need to skim off the grease – not because we’re afraid of fat when we’re on a low-carb lifestyle, but because greasy gravy does not have a good taste. The easiest way is to let the drippings cool for 10-15 minutes, Pour all the pan liquid into a big zip-lock bag and seal. Hold the bag by one upper corner over the roasting pan, and let the grease rise to the top of the liquid. Using kitchen shears, snip off the lowest corner of the bag, letting the juices flow back into the roasting pan. When you get to the grease layer in the bag, grab the corner, stopping the flow. You can now pour the grease into a container for cooking, or simply toss it with the bag.
The answer to how much gravy you need depends on the size of your turkey, how much gravy you want for your side dishes as well as your turkey, and whether you use gravy on your leftovers, or even in turkey soup. To make the gravy, pour the broth from the cooked giblets into the same roasting pan containing the grease-removed drippings. Add the cooking water from any steamed or boiled vegetables – I add green bean, rutabaga, and cauliflower water to mine, adding flavor and nutrients. Finally, pour in chicken broth, whether boxed or homemade, up to the volume of gravy you want.
With the burners under the roasting pan on medium-low, start stirring your gravy, scraping and dissolving all the browned bits into the liquid. Grab your guar or xanthan gum shaker and a whisk or stick blender. Begin whisking or blending the liquid in the pan, then start sprinkling the thickener over the top. (If you add the thickener before you start whisking or blending, you will get lumps.) Go easy – xanthan or guar gum are far more powerful thickeners than the starches you’ve used in the past. (Roughly ¼ tsp. xanthan or guar gum with thicken a cup of liquid). Stop when your gravy is a bit less thick than you’d like it to be; it will continue to thicken on standing. I like mine about the consistency of heavy cream. If you get too much thickener, do not panic. You can thin it out again with a little chicken broth.
You can add salt or Vege-Sal – a favorite of mine, to taste. Don’t over-salt; your gravy will continue to cook down a bit, and could become too salty. Pepper is good, of course. I usually add about a teaspoon of “Better Than Bouillon” chicken or turkey bouillon concentrate. I also add a little poultry seasoning, and just a small dash of soy sauce – not enough to notice. Then cut a clove of garlic in half, impale it on a knife point, and stir the gravy with it for a minute or two, for just the subtlest hint of garlic.
What about those giblets? Pick the meat off the neck — this is the most flavorful meat on the bird — and chop it fine. Trim the gristle from the gizzard, then dice all the giblets into small pieces and stir into the gravy. This was always my job growing up, and a substantial portion of the giblets wound up in my tummy before they ever hit the gravy pan.
Some of you may be unhappy about the idea of using organ meats. Giblet gravy is probably the easiest way to start working them into your diet. But if you just can’t bear the idea, your gravy will still be rich and flavorful without them.
That’s it! Pour it into a gravy boat and prepare to carve the bird. Happy Thanksgiving, and may you and yours have much for which to be thankful.
Copyright 2016 by Dana Carpender