There’s stock and then there’s brown stock…which makes a wonderful, hearty base for thick, dark gravy. And this time of year, with turkey and mashed potatoes on the holiday menu, that’s music to the ears.
Read on for the simple techniques that will make your gravy the best ever. You could say it’s the secret sauce.
How to Make Rich, Brown Stock
The difference is in the oven. A basic brown stock is made by first roasting, or browning, the bones before adding them to the stockpot, whereas a white stock uses raw bones and a white mirepoix, with parsnips instead of carrots, and often leeks and mushrooms.
Let’s assume you have a turkey neck, and perhaps some smaller uncooked turkey or chicken bones and trimmings. Chop them up, and if there are any larger bones, first disjoint them and crack to expose the marrow. This can apply to beef bones or chicken bones as well.
Enter the Duck Fat
Drizzle and toss the bones with duck fat and roast them in a preheated oven at 400 – 450°F, or brown them in a large, heavy frying pan with duck fat.
Add some chopped onions and carrots in equal measure about midway through the browning process, tossing all regularly. Keep an eye on the process to prevent burning.
You want browned bones here, not burnt ones. So keep turning them!
Into the Pot
Once the bones are good and browned, transfer everything into a stockpot, or any pot large enough to accommodate, while leaving the fat in the roasting or frying pan. Drain off the fat from the cooking pan and reserve (duck fat always comes in handy).
Deglaze the pan with a cup of dry French vermouth or a dry white wine, and bring to a boil while scraping all the bits from the pan.
When you have a thick syrup with lots of tasty scrapings in it, you are ready to transfer the mix to the stockpot.
Stir it Up
If you are making gravy, just keep in mind how much you want, because the stock reduces by as much as half while it simmers. Add enough water, sodium-free chicken stock or a mix of both to the pot, and make sure that it covers everything with at least 1 inch of liquid.
Add chopped celery with some of the leaves in proper proportion to the onions and carrots (2 parts onion and carrot to 1 part celery), and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, skimming the fat and scum from the surface. After that, lightly salt and add a few whole peppercorns, and perhaps fresh or dried thyme and/or a bay leaf to season. Partially cover by leaving the lid slightly cocked, and simmer for at least another 2-1/2 to 3 hours.
When it’s reduced and ready, remove the pot from the heat. Let it cool slightly and then chill your stock uncovered in the refrigerator. Once it is chilled, remove the solidified fat from the top and strain. Keep only the clear stock and discard the rest.
That is all there is to it, you now have a simple fond. When chilled it will be thick and gelatinous. That’s the goal: thick and rich brown stock.
Refrigerate this stock, covered tightly until you are ready to make delectable gravy.
After you roast the turkey and carve away the meat, be sure to save all the bones and bits to make a big pot of stock, brown or white, for turkey soups.
There is nothing so tasty as home-made stock.