Good ol' turkey,mashed potatoes and gravy
Almost every menu for Thanksgiving seems to start with Roast Turkey, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy. Now since you are not going to read this until a few days before Thanksgiving, I have to assume you know what you are doing with the turkey. Now, you would think anybody could make mashed potatoes and gravy. Right? Wrong. I have tasted some pretty awful mashed potatoes and gravy that tasted like dishwater. So, old hand or not, you might learn something here.
The first thing to know is that not all potatoes are equal. Russets are # 1 for a dry fluffy mashed. Kenebecs are a close second. Yukon Golds are not quite as dry but their yellow flesh and unique taste make them a good choice. The other thing to know is how much. Allow a 1/2 lb. per person. If you want leftovers make more. I am going to add a little spice to the mashed; but if you are shy of the spice leave it out and simply follow the basic directions.
So I am going to use about 5 lbs of peeled Russets. Cut the potatoes into equal sized pieces about the size of an egg. Put the potatoes in a large pot of water and bring them to a boil. Add 3-4 sprigs of thyme or Tarragon to the pot at the beginning. Boil about 30 minutes and then check to see if they are cooked. They should be tender all the way through to a skewer. Turn of the heat, remove the thyme and drain the potatoes. Now most people would be happy with that and start mashing; but the important thing to do is put the pot back on the burner on low heat, lid off or cocked and allow the potatoes to steam and dry out for about five minutes. Next is two ways: for a dry mashed just add about a half cup of butter and mash with an old fashion wire loop masher. Mash until they are no lumps. Don't over mash. They will hold in pot on the back of the stove.
The second method for a wetter creamier mashed. Add about 3/4 cup of warm milk or 10% cream and the butter and mash to a creamy texture.
I like the first drier method as they tend to hold more gravy.
Turkeys usually come with giblets -- neck, heart, gizzard & liver. To these add the wing tips and any extra skin you are trimming off. Season these with salt & pepper, break the neck into a couple of pieces. Brown the lot in a large skillet. When they are nicely browned remove them to a stock pot. Cut a couple of onions in quarters and brown those in the same skillet; when browned add to stock pot. Deglaze the skillet with white wine, apple juice or water -- about a half cup. Add all to stock pot. Add cold water to cover giblets by an inch or two and put it on to simmer. Keep an eye on it and add water as needed to keep it just covered. After a couple of hours you will have sucked most of the flavour out. Strain and reserve the liquid. Set aside until turkey is cooked. When the turkey is cooked remove it from the roaster and add the strained liquid to your gravy starter. Deglaze the roasting pan and add liquid to gravy pot. Now you have to taste it, season it, and thicken it. So warm it up and taste it. It will probably need a little salt and pepper. If it is quite bland add a little chicken soup base. Taste again; it may need a little lemon juice or butter. Spices can be added judiciously -- add a bit and taste. A little spice will make your gravy unique; but the spice should not overpower the gravy. It should be just a hint and keep your guests guessing what your secret is. If it has more than a skim of fat, remove fat by skimming or with an ice cube in cheesecloth.
Now, to thicken. My wife uses chicken Bisto to thicken and it does a good job--just follow the package directions. I like to use a blonde roux. Roux is a combination of equal parts flour and butter by weight that has been combined and cooked in a small skillet until it is dry and cakey. Crumble small amounts and whisk into the hot gravy until you have the desired consistency. Don't get it too thick. Roux thickened sauces have a velvety feel on the tongue.
And that my friends, ends the lesson on Roast Turkey with Mashed Potato and Gravy.
May you have a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving with your family and friends.
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