Sunday, November 18, 2007

A badly burnt bird, but great giblet gravy

One of the best things about Thanksgiving dinner is the leftovers. But since I’m traveling to Texas for my feast, I sadly won’t have pounds of turkey calling on my culinary creativity the days after Thanksgiving. Enter a turkey sale at Whole Foods last weekend. There, nestled amongst the mega-birds, was one little 10-pound free-range, vegetable-fed, never-been-frozen turkey, and I impulsively decided to buy it and roast it so I’d have enough for my own leftovers in New York City. How hard could it be? While I’d only roasted a turkey once before many years ago, with questionable results no less, these days I’m now much more capable in the kitchen. Besides, I roast chickens all the time and a turkey couldn't be that different. I was clearly deluded.

After scouring my neighborhood’s cooking shops for a roasting pan, I found a decent one on sale at Macy’s that was part of the new Martha Stewart line of cookware. It wasn’t coated in any nonstick nonsense, and was sturdy and attractive to boot. I was on my way! Now I just needed a method. But instead of calling the turkey pros in my family, I opted to (foolishly) figure it out on my own.

I read about 30 recipes on the proper way to roast the bird, and that’s where I got into trouble. Applying just about every technique I could find—brining, breast-side down, breast-side up, no basting, coating the skin in a chile puree and continuous cooking at a very high temperature—I was left with an over-done bird with meat as tender as sun-baked leather. Sure, some of the meat was edible, but if you decide to leave a tiny turkey in the oven at 400 degrees for 4 hours, don’t expect it to be juicy and succulent.

But one bright spot in my ill-conceived turkey adventure was the giblets. What many consider optional offal, (I was shocked at how many recipes said in reference to these innards, "Discard") is the highlight of my dad’s Thanksgiving. For generations, he and his family have been making some of the finest tasting gravy out of these ugly bits, a concoction so savory and rich that no vehicle is even necessary—you can eat this with a spoon.

There are countless giblet gravy recipes out there, but I find that my dad’s is the best as it’s simple to make yet sophisticated in taste. He’s tweaked his mother’s recipe a bit, as Grandma is known to also always include hard-boiled eggs in hers, which can be a bit much. You don’t often see giblet gravy in the Northeast, as its provenance hails from a time when poor Southerners wanted to extract every last ounce of goodness from their birds. But if you enjoy the earthy, creamy flavors of chopped liver, paté or fois gras, you’ll also enjoy giblet gravy.

Fortunately, my giblets were spared the heated wrath of my oven. After finding them before I overcooked my bird, buried deep in the neck cavity in a plastic bag, I made a giblet stock. (First, however, I had searched just the body cavity for the giblet bag. Not finding it, I marched back to Whole Foods and complained that my bird had been packaged sans giblets. After asking if I had searched both cavities, the butcher patiently explained to me that they could be found in the neck cavity. This should have been, ahem, a sign that I was a bit out of my league in the turkey-roasting department. Turkeys have two cavities? Who knew? Please, don't judge me.) I then strained the stock, chopped the gizzard, liver, heart and neck meats, whipped up a roux, added the stock, some pan drippings, giblets and spices, and in no time I had a smooth, silky sauce that tasted like home. Giblet gravy goes great over anything—not just turkey—so I ladled a generous portion over some toast and it was a terrific treat. Matter of fact, that’s Dad’s favorite day-after-Thanksgiving breakfast and I can taste why.

So while I have much to be grateful for this year, I will be very thankful on Thanksgiving to not be on turkey duty—I’ll leave that to the experts and instead stick to what I do best—side dishes, desserts, and now, giblet gravy. Though I reckon the turkeys will go on sale again the day after Thanksgiving, and armed with what I know now, I plan on attempting to roast one again. Practice makes perfect, right?

What do you do with your giblets? Happy Thanksgiving!

Dad’s Giblet Gravy



Ingredients:
Giblets (gizzard, neck, heart and liver), removed from turkey cavity and washed
1 medium yellow, onion, cut in half
1 stick of celery, cut into four pieces.
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into four pieces
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 stick unsalted butter
8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons of paprika
3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 cup turkey pan drippings
Salt
Pepper

Instructions:
Place the giblets in a pot with the onion, celery, carrots, garlic cloves. and bay leaf, and cover with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, and then turn heat down to low, simmering the stock for an hour and a half, stirring occasionally.

Remove giblets and chop meat into small cubes. Remove aromatics and strain the stock (should have about 5 cups).

To make the roux, in a pot heated on medium-low, melt the butter and then slowly add the flour. Constantly stir the flour and butter for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture is golden and tan.

Add the giblet stock, chopped giblet meat and pan drippings, and then add the spices and Worcestershire sauce, turn the heat up to medium-high and bring to a boil. (Dad uses Lawry’s Seasoned Salt instead of the turmeric and paprika, and if you prefer, you can use it, too.)

When mixture boils, quickly turn heat back down to medium-low and continue stirring until thick. Adjust seasonings to taste.


Yield:
6 cups

Notes:
Lots of people, such as my grandmother, like to add a sliced hard-boiled egg to their giblet gravy. I always found this horrifying, but many people enjoy this so feel free to add one if you like. You can make the gravy the day before using chicken stock instead of the pan drippings. It keeps in the fridge for three days and it can also be frozen.

Author:


HOMESICKTEXAN.COM
PRINT RECIPE

Here are some of my other recipes perfect for Thanksgiving:
Pimento cheese
Mashed sweet potatoes with chipotles
Cranberry, orange and cilantro salsa
Pecan pie
Biscuits
Cornbread

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44 comments:

Chicken Fried Gourmet said...

Yes, cooking a Turkey can be an adventure in itself. I have several horror stories myself.

Lydia said...

When I was growing up, my mother never made giblet gravy. I was introduced to it by my husband, whose family is of English background. Now it's a standard at our Thanksgiving table. (and, as far as turkey cooking disasters go, I've done them all, from overcooked to "forgot to turn on the oven" raw turkey!)

jerry said...

Four hours for a ten pound bird!?!?!?!?

Sweet mercy that must have been tough!

Hon, if you want to roast a great turkey, just refer to my post on the subject. You know where to find me, so I'm not going to leave a link.

The rub sounds good, and the gravy, though not my style precisely, sounds good as well.

As for gravy over toast... Who could question that it's wonderful?

Ginny said...

Ah, giblet gravy. Put the cornbread dressing beside the mashed potatoes. Ladle giblet gravy over both. Thanksgiving!

Texana said...

First of all, I don't know where to find Jerry's commentary on roasting turkey--some of us might like the link... I have a good method, but am always scouting for a better bird!

When I was a kid, Mother boiled the giblets, neck and tail, then minced them to put into the dressing (or stuffing), using the broth to moisten the dressing. The pan drippings from the turkey itself were used to make the gravy. Alas, my husband and my kids hated these tiny delicacies in the dressing and the tradition was lost.

Remember, there is some carry-over cooking of the turkey when you take it out of the oven, so pull it about 10 minutes early.

Kalyn said...

When I was a kid my grandma Denny always made giblet gravy, but I have to confess that now I usually throw the giblets away. Not sure why, either.

I highly recommend the method Elise's mom uses to cook turkey from Simply Recipes. I've used it several times with great success.

Naomi said...

I just wanted to say that a good (and I might add, Tex-Mex) way to deal with that over-done turkey meat might have been to make turkey tacos!
Shread it and stew it with some crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce and the usual tex-mex spice blend. My mom always uses comino, black pepper corns, garlic, and salt and crushes it all together in the mocajete. She puts all this together to stew for a while and it's an excellent way of using the extra turkey bits that no one wanted to eat. It'll also solve the dry turkey problem because it's shreaded and the smaller pieces pick up all that liquid and flavor. It's wonderful on a corn tortilla with some rice and beans on the side.
MMMMMmmm, I can't wait until next weekend for my mom to make some of this!

Guinnevere said...

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/236409

this recipe did me right last year, i used a 12 lb whole foods bird like you, but i only roasted for a little less than three hours. genius!

ps- i ADORE your site <3

from dallas

Larry said...

"as tender as sun dried leather" - you have such a way with words.

Have a great trip to Texas and don't forget Maria's Taco Express if you are in Austin and have any room for more food. Migas are great but all is good.

Happy TG

ann said...

See, this is exactly why I chose to ignore my mom's plaintive little suggestion that the family come down to my place in Brooklyn this year for Tgiving dinner... I've never cooked a turkey either! I'd be willing to be you anything that if I'd conceeded it would have turned out like this... but probably without the stellar gravy, 'cause that's just my luck. Happy short week Lisa! travel safe.

Kathryn said...

Ah, finding your blog was like a breath of fresh air! I am a Texan in Norway and HOW I miss the flavors from home. I have been putting Tex Mex recipes and pics on my blog of late...will bookmark you and visit often!

Happy thanksgiving!

Olivia said...

Hehehe! Sorry for laughing at your shoe-leather bird.

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE GIBLETS - whether from turkey, chicken or duck. In TX we used to buy a packet of them, my mother would lightly dust in seasoned flour and fry nice and tenderly crisp - love the chewy texture (it says a lot that I also like squid, right?). I am drooling right now. *drooooool*

Olivia said...

Oh, every time you return to Tx I ought to remind you of the Potatoe Patch restaurant!

***

Kathryn in Norway - how did a Texan get stranded out there? I am sorry ;)

Olivia said...

P.S. Duck a l'orange gravy on Pepperidge Farm stuffing. that's nice too.

Homesick Texan said...

Chicken Fried Gourmet--Whew, glad to know I'm not alone!

Lydia--You forgot to turn on the oven once? Oh my! I reckon things could be worse!

Jerry--I know, I know, it was very tough! Ahhh, lesson learned. And next time I attempt a turkey, I'll definitely take your advice.

Ginny--Yep, I love to smother everything, save for the cranberry sauce, in giblet gravy.

Texana--Here's a link to Jerry's turkey post: http://www.cookingbytheseatofmypants.com/2007/11/05/holiday-roast-turkey/
And giblets in the stuffing is tasty too!

Kalyn--Thanks for the tip, I'll check out Elise's mom's method. And you should start eating the giblets again!

Naomi--Where were you last weekend? No matter, I'll definitely be doing this with whatever leftovers we have in Texas!

Guinnevere--Thanks! I'm starting to realize four hours was a bit much!

Larry--Ha! Thanks, I try not to mince words and that's exactly how it felt when you chewed the meat.

Ann--You might have been smarter than I, however, and just followed one recipe instead of 30. Happy short work week to you too!

Kathryn--Welcome! I can imagine it's tough finding Tex-Mex in Norway. Can't wait to read about your cooking adventures!

Olivia--Ha! I also like squid--what a great analogy as I never thought of them having a similar texture but they do. And sadly, I won't be going to Houston so I won't be able to visit the Potatoe Patch this trip, but soon, soon, I hope!

radish said...

I am so sorry to hear you had turkey mishaps. they are tricky birds, aren't they? I hope that in time you brave the turkey again and give it a go!! The gravy looks incredible - and since I have gravy envy, I'll trying yours this season to see how I do!

Tommy said...

My mother's oven has two settings.
OFF/INCINERATE.

One of the reasons why I started to learn how to cook at a young age ( 11 yrs).

Even she can negotiate a turkey to a semi edible state. You should have called the Butterball hotline in case you had doubts.

Were you at least able to salvage any of it for soup ?

btw, the cats love the giblets boiled up for them.

Homesick Houstonian said...

I make two recommendations. I held an orphan thanksgiving in Texas (just like nyc, most houstonians 'inside the loop' are not from Houston)and my Turkey was alway amazing. Suggestion 1: The precooked diestal bird they sell in prepared foods only needs 1-2 hours in the oven to brown and reheat and will be perfectly cooked so long as you follow the instructions.

suggestion 2: Buy American Classics, a cookbook by the folks who do cook's illustrated (america's test kitchen on tv). You will brine the bird, cook it breast up, and then turn it over, but it WILL be perfect. It also requires you to roast your mirepoix in the pan beneath the turkey to give your gravy better flavor.It also has a great fried chicken recipe.

I actually liked their giblet gravy better than my dad's. It had an amazing depth of flavor, though I'm sure they didn't intend for me to use whole wheat flour in my roux and substitute the can of cream of chicken soup bought accidentally. heh.

Anyway, gotta love whole foods, you mentioned the butcher patiently asking you if you checked both cavities, which means he gets that question a lot!

nikkipolani said...

Oh, I'm so sorry you are turkey-less! But the gravy looks delicious. I'd like to try it this year :-)

Yvo said...

Really? It's rare in the northeast? I am pretty sure my family made (maybe suckily, I don't recall) giblet gravy when I was growing up. I do know, however, last year when I roasted my first turkey *squee* that I used Paula Deen's giblet gravy recipe (definitely a southerner!) minus the hard boiled egg (because that would have been too much, I think my friends would just stare at me, and most of them eat anything). Gravy on toast is awesome though... even better with a few slices of turkey and stuffing slipped in there ;) hahaha. Sorry to hear about your turkey thouhg... I'll be right there with you buying some turkey the day after though :D

Yvo said...

Really? It's rare in the northeast? I am pretty sure my family made (maybe suckily, I don't recall) giblet gravy when I was growing up. I do know, however, last year when I roasted my first turkey *squee* that I used Paula Deen's giblet gravy recipe (definitely a southerner!) minus the hard boiled egg (because that would have been too much, I think my friends would just stare at me, and most of them eat anything). Gravy on toast is awesome though... even better with a few slices of turkey and stuffing slipped in there ;) hahaha. Sorry to hear about your turkey thouhg... I'll be right there with you buying some turkey the day after though :D

Oh and the worst - I guess we didn't have giblet gravy one year - was when my older-by-8-years sister (who cannot, for the life of her, cook) "couldn't find" the innards and decided they'd been left out. So she, ah, cooked it like so. And then we found the innards later, still in the bag inside the turkey's neck cavity, STILL FROZEN. Yeah. Not a good turkey year.

Mom said...

Be sure you make a copy of this for your Grandma A!
Your dad must be smiling from ear to ear.
I laughed out loud.
I always over cook my turkey.

christine said...

great post!! that tough ole bird would have been just fine for leftovers at our house. we smother extra turkey with a rich chili-dip that hails from a 1950s Junior League of Corpus cookbook. it's not heart-healthy but perfect ranch fare for watching texas football and covering up flawed turkey...happy holiday yall!

(your gravy looks delish!!)

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

LOL...but don't give up...try again another time. At least you had the giblets...because you just can't beat a good giblet gravy!

Homesick Texan said...

Radish--Totally tricky, but I aim to try again soon. And good luck with the gravy--there's a lot of improvisation in my dad's recipe, but he thinks I got the measurements and directions correct.

Tommy--Yep, I was able to salvage it for broth. And it wasn't completely inedible, just most of it.

Homesick Houstonian--I keep meaning to get American Classics. And yes, WF--when it's not a zoo-- is one of my favorite places in the neighborhood. Everyone's always so helpful and friendly.

Nikkipolani--Thanks, but my grandparents will have turkey, I was just experimenting. So I'm not comletely without the bird!

Yvo--That's unusual--y'all are just about the only Northeasterners I know that eat giblet gravy. Is Paula Deen's the one with cornbread in it? I saw one somewhere and it read like it was supposed to be an all-in-one stuffing/gravy recipe.

Mom--Oh, so that's where I get it from--it's genetic!

Christine--Mmmm, that sounds wonderful. I'll have to try that this weekend!

Astra Libris said...

Delightful proof that gravy is an institution all in itself... When I was growing up, if mashed potatoes ever appeared on the supper table without gravy alongside, my grandmother would protest that this travisty was worse than no mashed potatoes at all!
- Astra Libris
http://foodforlaughter.blogspot.com

kimberly said...

What's the point of turkey gravy without giblets? I adore those chewy little bits, and have often wished I could buy two turkeys' worth to make extra-chunky (not lumpy) gravy. My mother's side of our family are staunch advocates for adding chopped hard-boiled egg; I'm with my paternal line on this one.

While I insist on making the side dishes for Thanksgiving (so that I'm assured of having cornbread dressing and sweet potatoes the way I want them), my Yankee husband roasts the turkey. I have no idea how he does it. Good luck with your next attempt, and happy Thanksgiving!

christine (myplateoryours) said...

The gravy sounds groovy. I remember the first time we roasted a turkey. It involved an emergency thaw in the bathtub and a paper bag set on fire in the oven (don't ask.)It could only get better from there (and it did!) Happy Thanksgiving!

Julie said...

Who knew turkeys have two cavities? Not me! I've never cooked a turkey in my life; my husband is always in charge of the turkey. And I've never made gravy -- also my husband's job, unless my mother is here. My mother is not a good cook at all but she makes a wonderful gravy.

We're going to a friend's house for Thanksgiving this year and he's cooking a turkey for the first time. Since my mother won't be there, I'm printing out your gravy recipe for him.

Hope you have a great visit to Texas and a very happy Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

What's your favorite Pecan Pie recipe? I always use the one on the Karo syrup bottle! My food snob friends think it's the best, I'd never tell them it's source!

NC Texan

Tommy said...

This may not be an appropriate place to bring this up, but I am sort of curious if you or any of your faithful readers know about TOFURKEY.

I have a couple of hipster friends, who are vegetarian and they say this product is really good.

I don't have the nerve to buy a Tofurkey set up, so I was wondering if you ever had the pleasure of indulging in this.
I am curious as i have had some Tofu "ground round" that wasn't too bad.

Freya and Paul said...

Disappointing for the roast, but at least you gave the bird the respect it deserved by making a delicious gravy! I made giblet gravy for the first time last year and was impressed at how wonderful it was!

Lisa said...

Oh, I'm sorry about your turkey! I laughed out loud at the part about trying to incorporate too many methods/recipes. I get into that, myself. Your gravy looks beautiful.

I make a very similar stock of the giblets, heart, and neck. However, I don't chop the giblets afterward and put them into the gravy; I just use the strained broth. Call me wasteful, but for some reason I've never been fond of the little pieces of giblet in there (don't tell your dad).

I made pimento cheese, too! So great to snack on while the turkey is roasting.

Gobble gobble.

Miss Scarlett said...

How happy this post makes me! I murdered my bird but made wonderful gravy as well!!! I am not alone! My gravy is just pan drippings from the turkey with some flour whisked in until it thickens, but it's amazingly yummy. Oh - and I use the giblets in mine, too. (I also forgot to check the neck cavity this year...DUH!)

Cynthia said...

I like giblets but have had it cooked in other ways, never in a gravy. Your dad's recipe sounds like a winner.

bj said...

The gravy and dressing is my favorite part of the meal, anyway. The turkey I can take it or leave it but I do enjoy that giblet gravy and that cornbread dressing.(out here in West Texas, it's called "dressin" more than "stuffin".
I loved your humorious post!!
bj

Olivia said...

Did you hear that because of the bird flu outbreaks here and consequent culls, a good turkey will cost about £100 this year? NO WAY!

Glad I prefer duck. I wonder how much the turkey at the American restaurant on Thursday cost them...

Julie said...

Awww, Lisa. I have to say that turkey is difficult for most of us, even when we've made it before, because people tend to make it once a year. It's hard to get good at anything that you don't do with any real frequency.

I have to say I'm getting better at turkey, though. High-heat turkey's a lot like high-heat chicken, really. Cook it till it's crisp, and the leg wiggles freely, and the juices run clear. My almost-20 pound bird only did about 3 hours, at a somewhat higher heat than yours...

Homesick Texan said...

Astra Libris--Gravy is indeed a required food group!

Kimberly--I know! I wish they sold just the giblets, especially since there are some people who don't use them.

Christine--I'm sorry, but I just have to ask--how in the heck did you set a paper bag on fire?

Julie--Whew, I'm glad not alone in my lack of knowledge on the finer points of turkey anatomy!

NC Texan--I like my grandmother's recipe the best, which also calls for Karo so it's probably not much different than the one on the bottle.

Tommy--My brother went through a vegetarian phase, and we had Tofurkey one year (along with a ham and a turducken). I took a bite, and it was fine, but no replacement for the real thing.

Freya and Paul--Isn't it divine? So rich and smooth--I can't imagine a Thanksgiving roast without it.

Lisa--Thanks! And you're not wasteful since you at least did something with the giblets.

Miss Scarlett--Yea! I'm not alone!

Cynthia--You must try giblet gravy at least once--it's the perfect vehicle for these little morsels of meat.

BJ--Yep, we called it dressin' growing up, too. And cornbread dressin' is the best, especially with lots of jalapenos.

Olivia--That's a crazy price! I'd stick with duck, too.

Julie--Very good point--and now I know what NOT to do next time!

Ava said...

Mom boiled the giblets with onion until they were cooked through, then cut them up, added the meat to the dressing, discarding the bones. Ummm, umm, good! Maybe it's a Texas thing.

Scribbit said...

My mother is famous at our house for eating the giblets while we all watch in horror.

Anonymous said...

Even though I'm here in Lubbock, Texas, so not homesick for Texas at all, I can't resist occasionally reading this wonderful site! Your recipes are fabulous and your descriptions are mouthwatering. Once my colleague and I begin reading, we often have to just shut down and go to lunch. But what I want to do here now is share a site with you that has the perfect recipe for roast turkey. I, too, had never roasted my own turkey until last Thanksgiving (since in Texas one must always go HOME for turkey!). A friend recommended this recipe and my first turkey was not only edible, it was divine. Even my husband of 30 years enjoyed it, and he avoids roast turkey religiously because of several bad, dry experiences. So give this a try even if it's not Thanksgiving. It makes fabulous leftovers! http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/good-eats-roast-turkey-recipe/index.html

Kristin said...

This is the most amazing gravy I have ever had! Thank you so much for sharing!

V Stewart said...

LOL, I thought everyone grew up eating giblet gravy. We use everything but the liver, we do the same thing with chicken giblets (gizzards). First things that go into a pot water to cover, onion, celery, carrots, and everything but the liver. We also bread, like fried chicken chicken gizzards and the hearts. Nummy! I currently live in Utah, grew up in the boonies of northern California and my family is from Idaho. Lots of food varieties :-D

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