Want to make Thanksgiving day easier on yourself and ensure you have the best gravy ever? Start now. (Or this weekend.) This, too, planning ahead, is part of mise en place, one of the most important cooking “techniques” to recognize.
Mise en place literally translates as put in place. To a cook, mise en place refers to his or her station set-up—having all that you need, at your station and in place, to accomplish the work ahead. Mise en place is shorthand for being prepared, at your station and in your mind. (I write about this more completely in Ruhlman’s Twenty.) It’s the cook’s first order of business, at a restaurant, at home. Making a roast chicken dinner with green beens and baked potato? Get everything out on the counter before you pick that first bean—including the butter that you’ll use for the baked potatoes and beans, the lemon or whatever you’ll be seasoning the beans with. See what you’re looking at—again, see what you’re looking at. So that you can see ahead, without obstructions.
See Thanksgiving Day ahead. If you’re ready or not, it’s going to be here regardless. Above is the actual mise en place for making turkey stock. A couple chicken wings and necks roasted till golden brown, chopped carrot and onion, bay leaf, tomato paste (for sweetness, depth of flavor and color), garlic, peppercorns (they’re best cracked with the flat side of a knife or a pan, or in a mortar). Put it all in a pan, cover with tap water, and put it on a low burner for four or five hours and strain. Freeze until the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
Easy Turkey Stock
Yield: 2 quarts stock
- 2 large turkey drumsticks
- 2 large turkey wings
- 2 Spanish onion, sliced
- 4 carrots, cut in pieces
- 4 celery ribs, cut in pieces
- 3 bay leaves
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon peppercorns, cracked beneath a pan or with a mortar and pestle
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- fresh parsley and thyme (optional)
- Roast the turkey pieces (you should have 5–6 pounds/2–3 kilos) in a hot oven, 425°F/218°C at least, till they look delicious. Scatter the onion, carrot, and celery in the same pan, and take them out when you take out the turkey. Don’t let the veg burn. (You can cut the meat off the bones for dinner if you wish, but the meat will add lots of flavor to the stock.)
- Put the turkey bones in a big pot and cover them completely with water, 3–4 quarts/liters, and put the pot over high heat. Turn your oven to 180°–200°F/80°–90°C. When the water comes to a simmer, put the pot in the oven, uncovered, for 8 hours or overnight.
- Add the remaining ingredients (if you don’t have enough room, remove the turkey bones—they will have cooked out by now). Bring to a simmer, then reduce the temperature to low and cook for another hour or so. Strain into a clean pot. Cool, then refrigerate.
- Reserve any fat that’s congealed on top for the roux on Thanksgiving day. Reduce the stock to 1 1/2 to 2 quarts/liters if it’s not already at that level.
If you liked this post on Mise en Place, check out these other posts:
- My recent posts include Winter Vegetable Garbure, Sweet Bell Pepper Soup, and French Onion Soup.
- Lots of chatter about The Food Lab, a new cookbook by Kenji Lopez-Alt.
- Besides our Thanksgiving recipes, stay in touch with Epicurious and Food52 for more good tips.
- My past posts on Stock Clarifications and Stock Convictions.
- Turkey Stock: Oven Method is another great way to make stock, the day after Thanksgiving.
© 2015 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2015 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.