Easy Make-Ahead Gravy Base or Quick Gravy

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A quick and easy base to which pan drippings are added for a deliciously stress-free (and lump-free!) gravy. May be prepared up to 4 days in advance.

A quick and easy base to which pan drippings are added for a deliciously stress-free (and lump-free!) gravy. May be prepared up to 4 days in advance.

 

 

 

Do you fret over making the gravy? It’s the last-minute job that must be done as you’re trying to complete a myriad of other tasks and get everything to the table while hot. With no lumps, of course!

Growing up, I was the designated gravy maker, stirring the slurry of flour and water into the big roasting pan and waiting for the mixture to come to a simmer and thicken to gravy perfection. (All while getting a steam bath!)

But if there aren’t extra hands in the kitchen, the following prep-ahead step will go a very long way.

Among other merits, a simple gravy base aims to reduce last-minute kitchen overload. It can be prepared up to four days in advance and then cooled, covered and refrigerated.

When the turkey (or chicken) is ready, the base is gently reheated and the pan drippings are stirred in.

That’s it! And the gravy is surprisingly delicious - and lump-free!

MAKE-AHEAD GRAVY or GRAVY BASE - A quick and easy base to which pan drippings are added for a deliciously stress-free (and lump-free!) gravy. May be prepared up to 4 days in advance.

 

The first step (after which the job is nearly done) is to create a roux. Although this may sound daunting, a roux requires nothing more than stirring equal parts of butter and flour together (gluten-free flour may be used) and cooking until the mixture is golden.

I aim for a blonde roux. This is akin to a light-colored gravy, or paler than the next stage, which is similar to the color of peanut butter. You could cook the roux further, which will intensify the flavor, but I find there’s an increased risk of burning the butter. And even a few flecks of burned butter will make for an off-tasting roux. (If this happens, it’s best to dump and start anew. Better to waste a few tablespoons each of butter and flour that to decide the flavor is no good after you’ve added the broth!)

An interesting detail: though the flavor of roux becomes more pronounced as the color darkens, its thickening power actually lessens as it darkens. This is because the starch chains in the flour break down as it’s cooked in the fat and the heat builds. The resulting smaller pieces are less efficient thickeners.

Science aside, a nice shade of blonde strikes a nice balance. My family prefers a gravy that is not too thick, so this color along with the following recipe proportions suit us quite well. (If you prefer thicker gravy, you could start with four tablespoons each butter and flour.)

MAKE-AHEAD GRAVY or GRAVY BASE - A quick and easy base to which pan drippings are added for a deliciously stress-free (and lump-free!) gravy. May be prepared up to 4 days in advance.

Butter and flour are combined and cooked over medium-high heat until the flour is incorporated and white bubbles begin to form on the top and create a roux. I cooked this mixture just a touch longer, but short of the color in the photo below, which reflects a darker stock.

A quick and easy base to which pan drippings are added for a deliciously stress-free (and lump-free!) gravy. May be prepared up to 4 days in advance.

Once the roux has some color, gradually add the broth or stock, followed by the thyme and sage, whisking constantly until the gravy is thickened and comes to a boil. At this point, you may season to taste with salt and pepper and use as a shortcut gravy. Or cool, cover and refrigerate the gravy base for as long as 4 days. Then reheat and stir in pan dripping from a roasted turkey or chicken later.

MAKE-AHEAD GRAVY or GRAVY BASE - A quick and easy base to which pan drippings are added for a deliciously stress-free (and lump-free!) gravy. May be prepared up to 4 days in advance.

This batch shows what happens when the roux was cooked several shades darker than in the photo above – it was borderline too dark. Before adding the broth, I could actually see the flour particles begin to break down and the resulting base was thinner once the broth was added.

A quick and easy base to which pan drippings are added for a deliciously stress-free (and lump-free!) gravy. May be prepared up to 4 days in advance.

This simple method creates a deliciously stress-free gravy base or quick gravy that can be tweaked to suit your tastes and doubled if needed-and virtually guarantees no lumps!

You may enjoy using this gravy base with my favorite roast turkey recipe⇩⇩. Even if you already have a tried-and-true recipe, you may simply like to incorporate the easy dry rub or the night-before tip for crispier skin!

HOW TO ROAST THE PERFECT TURKEY - Step-by-step instructions guarantee a perfectly seasoned turkey with crisp skin and white meat that's just as juicy as the dark meat. If you already have a tried-and-true recipe, you may simply like to incorporate the easy dry rub or the night-before tip for crisper skin!

Of course, gravy is also pretty tasty when drizzled over stuffing, and this slow cooker method ⇩⇩ frees up oven space without sacrificing crisp edges.

SLOW COOKER STUFFING (with oven method) -Tender stuffing with crispy edges is 100% possible in a slow cooker, freeing up precious oven space. Classic flavor will win you over, optional add-ins and prep-ahead tips will keep everyone happy!

Easy Make-Ahead Gravy Base
Yield: 2 cups base (or about 4 cups gravy once pan drippings are added)
A quick, lump-free base to which pan drippings are added for a deliciously stress-free gravy. May be prepared up to 4 days in advance.
Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour (may use all-purpose GF flour if needed)
  • 2 cups chicken or turkey broth or stock
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground sage (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pan drippings from a turkey or chicken (about 2 cups)
Instructions:

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour.

Cook over medium-high heat until the flour is incorporated and white bubbles begin to form on the top of the mixture (also know as “roux”).

Cook the roux for 2-3 minutes after the bubbles have formed, whisking constantly. I aim for a blonde-colored roux, which is a shade or two lighter than peanut butter. (Helpful hint: if you’re on the fence about how dark to let the mixture turn, err on the side of lighter than darker. Color equals flavor, however, a dark roux actually has less thickening power, plus any amount of burned roux will make for undesirable gravy.)

Gradually whisk in the broth, followed by the thyme and sage, whisking constantly until the gravy is thickened and comes to a boil.

Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. (Amount of seasoning will depend on broth or stock used, personal preference, and how much salt is in the pan drippings to be added later-and you can always add more later.)

At this point, you may use this as a barebones shortcut gravy right away, or cool, cover and refrigerate the gravy base for as long as 4 days. Reheat it in a pot that will accommodate the pan drippings, if using. In that case, when the turkey is done, skim off the fat and pour the drippings into the gravy base-aim for about 2 cups.  Adjust seasoning to taste and enjoy.

Options:

If you have fresh herbs on hand, you could use a scant teaspoon of minced fresh thyme and a half teaspoon of minced fresh sage. You could also soften a minced shallot in the butter before adding the flour and making the roux.  
For added savory flavor, sautéed mushrooms may be added.
A splash or two of cream may be stirred in at the end for added decadence.
If you enjoy giblets, you could add some minced, cooked giblets to the gravy. My mom likes to simmer them in a small pot with just enough water to cover (along with the turkey neck) to thoroughly cook them and then add that cooking liquid to the pan drippings.
For a shortcut vegan gravy, use vegan butter (like Earth Balance) and vegetable stock. In this case, the addition of sautéed onions and mushrooms would provide depth of flavor.
I like that this gravy isn’t too thick. If you prefer a thicker gravy, however, you may add an extra tablespoon each of butter and flour when starting the roux.

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

 

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Comments

  1. Mary

    Ann, Thank you! This worked perfectly! and thank you for voicing the stress I feel on making roux, gravy, etc., aaaack! But I love eating it! Mary

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Wonderful, Mary! Thank you for letting me know. I think everything tastes better when it’s stress-free, too. 😉

      Reply
  2. Karen O

    Hi Ann, Have you ever used arrowroot in this instead of flour. I’m curious what the proportions would be using it. Perhaps I’ll try it using the directions for the flour. Have a happy Thanksgiving. Thanks for trying to save us time and energy on the holidays.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Karen, I’ve used it in similar sauces, with good results. Using either arrowroot or cornstarch will change the ratio because they are stronger thickeners than flour. A general rule of thumb is to use one-third the amount. So in this case, you’d want to use 1 tablespoon of arrowroot (or cornstarch) in place of the 3 tablespoons of regular or gluten-free flour. I hope you enjoy and happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

      Reply