Happy as we are to dream up exciting new Thanksgiving recipes (every side dish in pot-pie form, anyone?), one of our favorite parts of Thanksgiving is the tradition of favorite family recipes. In a quick survey, we found that office favorites include Grandma’s crazy-addictive stuffing, bourbon chocolate pecan pie (booze in everything, please) and my own mom’s sweet-potato praline casserole (No marshmallows. Ever.), which is quite similar to this recipe.
We also wondered what chefs would pick, so we reached out to one who’s built his restaurant around his appreciation of family tradition. Ian Boden, chef and owner of the Shack in Staunton, Virginia, was inspired by the culinary traditions of his wife’s grandmother, Tissy, who made Appalachian and Southern food in her own home (which she called “the shack”). In talking about Grandma Tissy’s legacy, Boden mentioned her turkey gravy, a recipe that Boden’s wife tasked him with recreating based on her descriptions of it after Tissy’s death. So in honor of Thanksgiving family favorites, he agreed to share the recipe and its story. (Note: If you’re nervous about making gravy from pan drippings, here is a primer.)
Grandma Tissy’s Turkey Gravy
Grandma Tissy’s gravy had been sorely missed by the entire family at Thanksgivings after Tissy passed, so I was commissioned with replicating it. Unfortunately Grandma Tissy passed before I met my wife, Leslie, so I never had the change to meet her or taste her beloved gravy. Going in blind is a difficult thing, especially when it’s something so personal to the family. That said, I set to work, and over the course of several years have finally gotten their approval. The secret to this recipe is really in the roux. As a chef we learn to make sure the roux cooks evenly over low heat to get its uniform color. But not here. For Tissy’s gravy you must let it cook unevenly and let little dark brown specks develop. Basically forget everything you know about making roux!
Turkey drippings to yield ½ cup turkey fat (if needed, supplement with lard or butter) and 4 cups of remaining drippings (if needed, supplement with turkey stock or low-sodium chicken stock)
½ cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pour the drippings from the turkey’s roasting pan into a heat-proof cup and refrigerate until the fat solidifies (about 15 minutes).
Skim the fat to add to a small sauce pot, reserving the rest of the now defatted drippings. Over medium heat, melt the turkey fat, then stir in the flour. Cook for approximately 35 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until the roux reaches a medium-brown color.
Drizzle in the defatted turkey drippings as well as the turkey stock and stir, slowly raising the temperature of the gravy until it reaches a low simmer, then simmer the gravy, stirring regularly, until the desired thickness is achieved (15 to 20 minutes). Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.