In this age of cutting back on fat whenever and wherever we
can (and by “we” I mean “you”), we forget that throughout most of history, this
was the complete opposite. Fat was a concentrated, powerful fuel that literally
kept people going, and this red eye gravy is a little taste of those times.
The challenge in tough times is to make those greasy pan
drippings more palatable, more interesting, and more delicious. It’s not like
families struggling through the depression had pots of demiglace reducing on
the stove, or bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon sitting around to deglaze their
cast iron skillets – heck, they probably didn’t even have a decent Merlot. So
they used what they had; like a splash of leftover coffee.
Is this a recipe that would have been developed based solely
on how awesome it tastes? Probably not, but that’s not to say it isn’t still
very tasty. It is. The way the bitter coffee marries with the sweet, smoky fat
is far from unpleasant, and infinitely better than simply pouring the pan
drippings over your food.
By the way, the name apparently comes from the fact that
when the sauce is poured in a bowl and brought to the table, the fat and coffee
separate, it takes on the appearance of a big, reddish eye. Of course there’s
another legend about how General Andrew Jackson told a hung-over cook to make a
gravy for his ham that was as red as his bloodshot eyes.
I’m pretty sure whoever made up that story also had very red
eyes, but not from whiskey. Anyway, like I said in the video, I did this as
more of a culinary experiment than a “you have to try this” recipe, but
regardless, I think it’s an interesting dish, and one I’d be interested in
hearing about if you do try. Enjoy!
Ingredients for 2 portions:
1/2 cup of chopped fatty ham scraps
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 thick slices of ham
about 2/3 cup black coffee
I’m not a big fan of “make-ahead” recipes, but when it comes
to Thanksgiving, the less we have to do before dinner, the better. This turkey
wing gravy will not only free up valuable kitchen time, but chances are it will
look and taste even better than those frantic, last-minute versions.
A world-class gravy, while not a difficult procedure, does
require a little bit of finesse and attention to detail. Of course, screaming
kids, chatty relatives, and alcohol consumption are the natural enemies of
finesse and attention to detail, so for that reason I’m a big fan of this
By the way, as I mentioned at the end of the video, just
because you’re making this ahead of time, doesn’t mean you’re throwing away all
those amazing pan drippings. While your turkey’s resting (should be at least 30
minutes), pour off the juices, skim off the fat, and add it to your gravy.
For this reason, I’ll generally make the gravy a little
thicker than I want, knowing I’m going to dump another cup or so of liquid in
later. Speaking of thickness, as with all the sauces we do, you are in complete
control. If you want thicker gravy, use more roux and/or reduce further. If you
want something a bit lighter, use less roux and/or more stock.
Either way, making the turkey gravy ahead of time is just
smart logistics, and frees you up for more important things, like watching
football and fishing for compliments. I hope you give this a try. Enjoy!
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 large turkey wings
10 cups cold water (1 or 2 to deglaze the pan, and 8 to add
2 cloves garlic, optional
For the gravy:
2-3 tablespoons reserved turkey fat
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup flour
about 6 cups reserved, strained turkey stock
pinch of cayenne
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