I can’t imagine where the year has gone, but here we are, with Thanksgiving Day just around the corner. For almost everyone, Thanksgiving means turkey, and turkey, of course, means stuffing – although where I grew up, we always called it dressing.

But whether you call it dressing or stuffing, and whether you bake it in a pan or cook it inside the turkey, once you’ve got dressing, you’ve just got to have gravy.

Having that turkey roasting in the oven is an exciting thing. But back when I was a kid, the gravy that went with Thanksgiving turkey wasn’t just any old kind of gravy. It was giblet gravy, and in its own way, that was just as exciting as the turkey.

Nowadays at least half the cooks I know – maybe more – don’t even bother with stuffing the turkey. It’s faster and simpler to cook the stuffing separately, flattened out in a large baking pan. If I’m feeling polite, I don’t bother to point out that yes, it’s easier, and the turkey takes less time to cook if it’s not stuffed, and afterwards you can cut the leftover dressing into neat, serving-size squares and freeze them. But you miss all that beautiful flavor you get when your dressing has been cooked inside the turkey.

On the other hand, it’s no longer a given that our Thanksgiving turkey will be roasted in the oven. It may be smoked or even fried. Or you may cook only half a turkey or just the breast.

But you’ve still got to have gravy. Maybe not giblet gravy – in fact, I’ve run into people who don’t even know what giblet gravy is – but you still need gravy.

There’s no getting around it — giblet gravy is fussy stuff to make. When I was little, one of the tasks entrusted to kids was removing the meat from the neck after it had been boiled and allowed to cool, and a tedious task it was, too. But our mothers would have found it unthinkable to make giblet gravy that didn’t have the very flavorful neck meat to go along with the giblets.

Over the years we’ve seen a steady proliferation of gravy products in the Don’t-Bother-Doing-It-Yourself category. If you know where to look on your supermarket shelves you can take your choice of ready-to-go gravy types: turkey, beef, chicken, pork or sausage. Just heat it, ladle it on and eat.

I’m convinced that whoever started that trend was an only child. With no siblings to share the load, every year it fell to him or her to extract the meat from the turkey neck.

Over the years, we’ve also become a lot more health-conscious, with a growing population of folks on restricted diets. I know people who occasionally schedule themselves a day off from dietary restrictions, but in the case of gravy, the National Turkey Federation offers a more prudent solution — guilt-free turkey gravy.

The simplest way to defat pan juices is to pour them into a glass measuring cup and refrigerate, allowing the fat to come to the surface and solidify. Remove the layer of fat from the top and discard, then add enough turkey broth to get the required 4 cups.

You don’t want to put your nice hot gravy into a cold serving container, so before you begin cooking the gravy, pre-heat your gravy boat or whatever you plan to use (I use a large cream pitcher) by filling it with hot water and letting it set until needed.

GUILT-FREE TURKEY GRAVY

Ingredients:


1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cool water
4 cups turkey broth and defatted pan juices
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:


In a small bowl, add water to cornstarch a little at a time, blending until smooth.
Meanwhile, in large saucepan over medium heat, bring mixture of broth and pan juices to a boil. Whisking constantly, slowly add cornstarch mixture.
Continue to stir until gravy is thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.
This gives you about 12 calories for each 3-tablespoon serving, no fat or cholesterol, only 2 grams of carbohydrates and 10 milligrams of sodium.

 

Mary Ryder is a food columnist for the Daily Commercial. Email her at practicalpotwatcherAcfl.rr.com.