It may seem a little early to bring up Thanksgiving, but if you love this meal as much as I do, you are already planning the day and the food. I have been blessed over the years with many places to enjoy this meal, and have been further blessed with many opportunities to serve it up to people, some family, some chosen family, some friends, some friends and family if only for that one special day. In recent years I dished up all of my favorite side dishes for folks to buy at Homewood Gourmet, mostly using my own recipes, but occasionally someone would do me the honor of bringing me a copy of their tattered family traditional recipe that I would recreate. That gave me great pleasure, thinking of them enjoying their tradition almost as if I was sitting at the table with them. And many folks told me that the Baby Blue Salad was now a part of their Thanksgiving tradition, and we sold lots of them on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, along with the stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, au gratin potatoes, sweet potato pecan pie, some awesome gravy, basically we called it everything but the bird. And that awesome gravy is important to buy if you are frying a turkey, because there are no drippings to be had! But more on that later...I am happy to report that Homewood Gourmet will be available for all of those wonderful things, and some additional items that Chris and Laura Zapalowski, who bought and are caring for my baby, have come up with... and of course there will be plenty of Baby Blue, that wonderful blend of greens, blue cheese, strawberries, mandarin oranges, balsamic vinaigrette and those seasoned pecans, but you better order ahead, as it does go quickly!
For my personal Thanksgiving celebration in Birmingham I have been fortunate to be invited to the home of a friend, who lives out in Blount County, around some other friends in a wonderful community. My friend hosts what she calls an orphan’s Thanksgiving, intended for all of us who have little or no local family to enjoy this traditional day with. And she is always happy to accommodate whoever I round up to take up with me, people who need a table to sit up to, and a warm group to be a part of. The latest food contribution that I have been taking to Blount County is a modification to the Awesome Gravy Recipe—the addition of Mole’, a flavorful Mexican paste of chiles, annato and often a little chocolate, for added richness, and a different flavor profile to the tradition. The red mole paste is available in Mexican grocery stores and some general grocery stores.
But before you make the mole’ gravy, you must make:
Awesome Gravy Base
This recipe is really more technique than exact measurements. It takes several days to prepare correctly, so get started early.
First I make turkey stock from browned turkey necks/wings and browned vegetables (carrots, onions, celery) on Sunday or Monday (you can buy them at the store, sometimes frozen), allowing it to simmer for a day or so with some aromatics, (thyme, parsley, bay leaf)...straining off the wonderful broth, cooling it completely, do not skim or discard any fat that is on the top! The remaining bones and vegetables can have more bones, vegetables and water to make a second cooking broth that is excellent for making your favorite dressing/stuffing.
Saute some shallots in butter until golden brown, add some sugar until lightly caramelized, deglaze with sherry or white wine, flavor with thyme and sage and reduce by two thirds. Reserve.
Remove the fat from the top of the cold stock, it should be semi solid.
Render the fat in a thick pan, with the addition of butter or pork/bacon fat if so desired.
Add equal amount of flour to the amount of fat/butter and cook until a medium brown roux, whisking well to keep it from burning in the corners.
Deglaze with sherry or white wine, add the reserved shallots.
Add the stock and simmer for several hours to concentrate the flavors. Add some salt, pepper and Mrs. Dash Seasoning. If it gets too thick, add more stock. Do not be afraid to let this cook and reduce, as the flavor will only get better. If a skin starts to form, skim a bit off with a ladle. Simmer it gently.
Strain and chill. This step can be done as early as Tuesday, leaving plenty of time for other dishes in the preparation of the meal.
To finish the Awesome gravy, take the pan that the turkey was cooked in, as the turkey is resting prior to carving, heat the pan and deglaze with sherry. Allow to reduce, add the gravy base, and bring to a boil, and reduce to desired consistency and flavor.
Season to taste. My personal secret is the addition of a little balsamic or sherry vinegar to add a little acidity to the final product!
Strain and serve. If you like giblets, you can use the heart and gizzard that come with the turkey, cooked in a little stock and then chopped with a little neck meat, removed from the bone. Add the cooked giblets just before serving, making sure they are heated through in the gravy.
It should be Awesome!!!