Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Make Ahead Gravy for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is almost upon us, it gets so hectic when you are trying to prepare a Thanksgiving feast. If you are like me it gets most frantic when the turkey comes out of the oven and it's time to let the bird rest so you can get on with making the gravy. That's usually about the time when my two teenage grandsons walk in the door and tell me right away that they are starved. The moment it's said I can feel my neck tightening and everything in my body begins to hurt. Welllllllll, I have a solution, a Make Ahead Gravy. I must tell you it is absolutely delicious and the smoked turkey wings are a key element to this amazing flavor. This is but one minor solution to a busy Thanksgiving  but it feels so nice to be able to pull out your already prepared gravy and just warm it. One less thing that you have to do when everyone is piling in your kitchen, it becomes chaos if it's anything like my house.

We begin with smoked turkey wings and necks, yes you read that right and just so you know, they make the BEST basis for your gravy. They are now readily available at most grocery stores.  Placed in a large roasting pan with some halved garlic (no need to peel the whole bulb just cut it in half), a medium onion cut in pieces and several stalks of celery then roasted on one side for 45 minutes, then turned to roast on the other side for another 45 minutes. An easy process but time consuming.
Then you add in your chicken stock and roast for another hour. Take them out of the oven and let them cool and then it's time to make the gravy. Remove all the turkey wings, vegetables and then pour through a sieve into a large container. You will have about 5 to 8 cups of strained stock.
Begin your gravy with the unsalted butter and then add in the flour. It's only necessary to cook the flour for a couple of minutes but I like to cook the flour to a medium brown. It will have more flavor and it will also make your gravy a little darker.

 Stir it constantly with a wire whisk so no lumps appear and I like mine to get to a medium brown.
 Continue to whisk as you add in the turkey stock, cider vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. The vinegar sounds a  little weird but trust me it gives it a little bite that is needed.
Let it simmer for a couple of minutes and then pour it into a freezer container and you have your gravy. All you have to do is take it out, pour it in a pan and you have an amazingly delicious gravy.
Let it cool and pop it in the freezer. When you roast your turkey on Thanksgiving just save your drippings to go in the freezer for Christmas or the next time you roast a turkey. Trust me this Make Ahead Gravy is the best I have ever made, it is outstanding and the best part, it saves you some time, more time you can spend with your guests.

Make Ahead Gravy

This can be prepared 2 or 3 days ahead. Just reheat it in a saucepan over medium. The turkey stock can be made, cooled and frozen for up to 6 months.

For the stock:

2 T olive oil
6 lb. turkey wings and necks
5 ribs celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 head garlic, halved

Add: 12 cups chicken broth

For the gravy:

1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup AP flour
8 cups turkey stock
1 T apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Sauté the turkey wings and necks, onion, celery and garlic in a roasting pan on top of the stove in the olive oil over medium high heat until beginning to brown. Transfer to the oven, roast 45 minutes, then turn the wings and necks over and roast an additional 45 minutes.

Add broth to the pan and cook in the oven for 1 hour, or until reduced to 8 cups. Strain stock and set aside.

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Gradually add strained stock, whisking until smooth. Bring to a boil, simmer 2 minutes to thicken, then reduce heat to medium low; simmer 10 minutes. Finish with vinegar, salt and pepper.

You won't be disappointed with this gravy and when you warm it up you could add in a little tied bundle of sage, parsley and thyme and even a splash of cognac. Frankly I like it as is, it is delicious. I also need to add that this is not an original recipe of my own. I happen to be on a food message board with some of the greatest cooks from all over this country. I am privileged to have available to me these wonderful recipes and this one just happens to come from one of the members who consistently shares excellent recipes. Lucky me right?

I hope you'll try this little time saver, anything helps when you have a crowd for a Thanksgiving meal.

Happy Thanksgiving
I am linking this post to Wow Us Wednesday hosted by Kim at Savvy Southern Style and will also link this post to Foodie Friday hosted by Michael Lee at Rattlebridge Farm.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Vegetable Beef Soup

In our area of North Florida we are now finally enjoying some Fall like weather with temperatures dipping into the 40's in the evening and at least twice in the high 30's. This puts me in the mood for some Fall "good eats" and there is nothing I like better than a pot of Vegetable Beef Soup.
 Always, the first thing that comes out in the Fall is my Staub Pumpkin pot and remains there until after Thanksgiving. Reminding me that it is autumn and this pot needs to be filled with something good whether it be a stew or a soup or even a pot roast.
Most people think of a Vegetable Soup as a way of cleaning out their refrigerator and that works well too but when I'm wanting a good Beefy Veggie Soup it means really good ingredients and you can also use frozen soup veggies. That is if you don't happen to have any leftover veggies in the fridge.
I begin with browning my beef and I always use cubed round making sure that it is cut up in bite sized pieces. I like the leanness of the round and I think more flavorful. First browning the beef in a little olive oil on all sides and then set aside to be added in later.

After removing the browned beef I add in my Mirepoix, a French term for a combination of onion, celery and carrots diced finely to begin building flavor. Always using really good ingredients, there are no better ingredients than the canned tomatoes or beef stock I use unless of course you make them from scratch.
After browning the beef I start sautéing the onions just until they are transparent and then add in my other vegetables ending with some finely minced garlic. Making sure that the garlic does not burn, that will give off a bitter taste. Salting as you go along, as you build the layers of flavor.
Then adding in the beef broth, the crushed tomatoes, the browned beef, and a beef bone with marrow, this gives great flavor. Doesn't need to be a very large beef bone but again building that flavor.
Next I add another important bit of flavor, a bouquet garni all of which come from my herb garden with the exception of the bay leaf. I keep these little muslin bags at all times just for this purpose and for this soup I use a sprig of basil, 3 sprigs of thyme, 1 sprig of rosemary, 1 bay leaf and a sprig or two of parsley.

Stuffed and ready to be dropped into the pot. Releases it's flavor but also easy to retrieve and there is no chopping.
Let this simmer for about an hour until the meat is tender.
Then I add in my veggies, if I do have some leftover in the fridge that's a good way to use them up but if not I use a frozen soup mixture of mixed veggies from the grocer. Simmered for about another 30 minutes. Serve it up and top with your favorite cheese. In this case I topped it with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Vegetable Beef Soup
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
1-1 1/2 pounds beef round chunks
sliced beef bone with marrow
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 stalks of celery, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 quart beef broth
1-28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
about 28 ounces of water
salt and pepper to taste as you go along to build each layer of flavor
Mirepoix: placed in a small muslin cooking bag
1 sprig fresh basil
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1-2 sprigs fresh parsley
1 bay leaf, dried
Place the olive oil in a large heavy pot, at least a 5 quart pot. Salt and pepper the beef chunks. Add the beef chunks to the pot and brown, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the beef from the pot to a plate, add in onions and a little more olive oil if needed and sauté until clear. Add the carrots and celery and cook just until softened. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute being careful not to burn the garlic and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Add back in the browned beef with it's juices, beef stock, can of crushed tomatoes, mirepoix, and beef bone. Add enough water to the consistency that you like for a soup, about what will fill the emptied can of crushed tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste,  bring it to a boil, and turn down the heat and simmer for 1 hour.
Add vegetables of choice and cook for 30 minutes longer until vegetables are cooked tender. If using already cooked veggies just heat them through. Before serving check for seasonings.
Soooooo delicious and true comfort food on a chilly evening. Pared with a side salad and a glass of a good red wine, it doesn't get any better than that.
This is one of my favorite soups and it freezes beautifully. If you try it I hope you enjoy it. Everybody has a favorite way of preparing Veggie Soup, I would love to hear how you change things up.
Thank you for visiting and I hope you'll come back again. I will be sharing this post at Michael Lee's blog for Foodie Friday. Click HERE to enjoy other recipes shared.