Mise en place for turkey stock/gravy. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

In preparation for Thanksgiving, America’s biggest home-cooking day, I’ll be addressing a few of the most common issues and frequently asked questions about the basics: roasting turkey and making gravy. Friday, I’ll be introducing an innovate and  in my opinion the best possible way to roast a whole turkey (it involves a dual method and resulted last year in Donna’s saying, “This is the best roasted turkey we’ve ever had.”)

But first things first: make turkey stock now so that you have it on hand to make gravy. I don’t know where we got the idea that a roasting turkey results enough juices to make gravy. It doesn’t. And you certainly want to have way too much gravy on Thanksgiving so that you have leftovers. My favorite day-after meal is hot turkey sandwiches, smothered in gravy.

This weekend, Donna picked up two full turkey wings and four turkey necks, about 4.5 pounds/2 kilos. I roasted them in a hot hot oven till they were good enough to eat (Donna and I made a meal of the meaty parts that night, with brown-butter-sage pasta). I also cut up two big onions (2 pounds/900 grams) and half as much carrot and roasted them dry along with the turkey wings (you can add half as much celery as well if you like). I put the bones in a pot and covered them with plenty of water and put them in the oven over night on low. The next day I added the roasted veg, a couple tablespoons of tomato paste, cracked pepper corns, garlic and a couple of bay leaves, and cooked the stock over low heat on the stove top for a couple more hours. I strained it, let it cool, and refrigerated it.  You can freeze it until Thanksgiving if you make it now.

The above instructions will give you more than a quart or liter of really rich stock. If you use my technique for perfecting the roasted turkey, you’ll need to up these quantities by 50%, which is what the recipe below calls for.

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 ribs celery cut in pieces
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns, cracked beneath a pan or with mortar and pestle
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • fresh parsley and thyme (optional)
  1. Roast the turkey (you should have 5 or 6 pounds/2 or 3 kilos) in hot oven, 425˚ F at least, till it looks delicious. Scatter onion, carrot and celery and put them in the same oven, 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.)
  2. Put the turkey bones in a big pot and cover them completely with water, 3 to 4 quarts/liter, and put the pot over hight heat. Turn your oven to 180 or 200 degrees F/80 or 90 degrees C. When the water comes to a simmer, put the pot in the oven for 8 hours or over night.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients (if you don’t have enough room, remove the turkey bones—will have cooked out by now). Bring to a simmer, then reduce temperature to low, and cook for another hour or so. Strain into a clean pot. Cool, then refrigerate.
  4. 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.

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© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved