While I wait for my stuff to arrive from California, I’m contemplating Thanksgiving in a new home. It just sort of begs for something special to mark the occasion.
I’m not a fan of turkey, which I know means that the terrorists have won, but I do know how to make an excellent one following the advice from Julia Child, where you deconstruct the bird. It seems a little weird at first, but put your bird in an experts hands and you will find easy success.
I mention this several days ahead of Thanksgiving because if you do decide to go the deconstructed route, you have one great advantage over all the amateurs: you can make turkey stock NOW and have excellent gravy for the big night. Here’s how:
- Gather the bones and trimmings from when you deconstruct the turkey. You should have the neck, the back, wing tips and other misc. bits. (I always remove the wishbone now to make carving later easier.). Roast them, skin and all until deeply brown. All that color is flavor and it will make your turkey stock more delicious.
- Take all the roasted bones and put them into a big stock pot and cover them with water. Deglaze the roasting pan. If you like to cook with wine, now is the time to do it. Heat the roasting pan and pour in enough liquid to give about ¼ inch of depth. Scrape all the browned bits up from the pan — that’s where the flavor is, and pour this liquid into the stock pot with the bones and the water.
- Add some onions, carrots, celery and so forth. Bring the pot to a simmer and let it cook without boiling. It sounds sort of crazy, but if you let it boil, your stock will become cloudy and the fat will emulsify with the water. Just let it perk along and try to not let it boil. I usually let it go overnight. Taste it whenever you think about it. It is done when you think it is well flavored.
- Strain the beast. Line a colander with several layers of cheese cloth, and put a large container underneath to catch the stock. If the stock has bits of meat or vegetables floating in it, then strain it again with some more fresh cheesecloth. By now it should be sparkling.
- Chill the stock. Bring the stock down to room temperature and then put it in the fridge. The fat will float to the top (taking any other impurities with it) and congeal, making it really easy to remove and discard.
That’s really it. You are essentially done and you now have restaurant-quality stock that is ready to be used for your gravy while your turkey rests before carving. All you need to do now is to make a roux with some flour and the fat from the turkey roasting pan and then then it with your excellent stock.
Of course, here’s the best advice from my teacher Tante Marie: Just put the f***ing turkey in the oven.