Does anyone really like turkey? I mean really really like it? As in, like it so much that it’s the highlight of Thanksgiving dinner for them? I’m guessing no. No sane person with taste buds actively enjoys turkey. That may seem like a pretty hard stance to take with an inoffensive bird, but I’m sticking to it.
Ground turkey, I’m totally on board with that – it’s a healthy and delicious alternative to ground beef/pork. I use it in all my meatballs and chili and burgers, and Dan can’t tell the difference. Roasted/fried turkey on the other hand? Totally dry and flavorless. So much less tasty than it’s smaller feathery friends (e.g., chicken and duck…mmm, duck).
In my mind, turkey on Thanksgiving is basically just a vehicle for gravy and mashed potatoes and all the other fixings. If you load your fork up with enough stuff, you basically don’t even taste the bird. Because it has no flavor of its own. Turkey – it’s the white bread of the poultry world.
It’s possible that my lack of love for turkey could be tied to the fact that my parents and I never quite figured out how to cook it. They must not have turkeys in China, because my parents have never once managed to roast a turkey that didn’t come out of the oven dry. They can whip up an amazing 30-dish Chinese meal involving several roasts, a whole fish, and a stuffed duck in under three hours, but the humble turkey baffles them. And me, if we’re being honest.
Around the time I started law school, my parents discovered that Safeway offers something called “The Complete Thanksgiving Dinner.” For some amount of money, you can get a complete Thanksgiving meal consisting of a fully cooked Turkey (frozen), mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, and a pumpkin pie. All the deliciousness of a traditional holiday feast, without the fuss!
Except, as you might expect, the meal isn’t that great. And, we somehow managed to overcook the turkey again.
It took a few years before we realized that nobody ever ate any of the turkey at our Thanksgiving parties. The Chinese food and Thanksgiving side dishes were demolished, of course, but we always got stuck with at least 8-10 pounds of turkey at the end of every party.
Sad, dry, tasteless turkey that we had to choke down for weeks afterwards. Until one year my mom decided to cut down on the number of Tupperware containers in her fridge, and just poured all the leftover gravy on top of the leftover turkey and scooped the whole thing into one large container for storage.When we woke up the next day, resigned to eating gross turkey leftovers for lunch, we discovered that the turkey actually wasn’t gross at all.
Turns out that turkey bathed in gravy = pretty delicious. The previously dry, bland meat soaked up all the juicy goodness from the gravy and became super moist and flavorful. It was a miracle! I’ve never been big on sauces, but I’ve been a fan of gravy ever since.
The other day Dan asked me what I thought the super thick brown gravy his grandfather used to make at Thanksgiving was made from. I had no idea, of course. But if I had to guess, it was probably made with chicken or turkey drippings, augmented with broth, and thickened with flour. Delicious!
You know what is even more delicious than greasy, fatty drippings from a roast bird? Greasy, fatty drippings from crispy bacon. And when you throw a bunch of shallots and stock into the mix, you get a rich, thick gravy that’s full of porky, onion-y/garlicky, umami flavor that’s to die for.
I made this gravy to go with roast chicken when we had people over for football on Sunday, but we ended up eating it on everything – stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans…it tasted good no matter what you ate it with! Definitely adding this recipe to my Thanksgiving repertoire…
- 6 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
- 6 medium shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 cup chicken or beef stock
- 2 cups cold water
- 3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pot, add the bacon and cook over medium-low until all the fat is rendered and the bacon is totally crispy.
- Using a slotted spoon, scoop the bacon bits out of the pot and onto a paper towel to drain.
- Add the shallots to the bacon grease in the pot and reduce the heat to low.
- Cook until the shallots are caramelized - about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Add half of the cooked bacon bits back in the pot and increase the heat to medium.
- Add the stock and bring the mixture to a simmer.
- Combine cold water and flour in a water bottle or mason jar, and shake it hard for 30 to 60 seconds, until the flour seems completely incorporated and creates a slurry.
- Pour the slurry into the bacon drippings and shallots mixture, whisking constantly.
- Continue to stir and scrape down the pot until the gravy has thickened, anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.
- Taste the gravy and season it with salt and pepper to your liking.
- Serve immediately, or store in a sealed container in the fridge until you're ready to serve (up to a week).
(Recipe from How Sweet It Is)