Help! How can I keep my gravy from being lumpy?

Lumps are the scourge of gravy makers. As long as you whisk the turkey fat and flour (with a pinch of salt) to a uniform texture and add the warm stock gradually, you should be home free. (If the gravy is still lumpy, use an immersion blender or a hand-held mixer. If worse comes to worst, you can always strain it.)

Get a jump on the gravy by preparing the turkey stock up to 3 days ahead. Not only does that save time on Thanksgiving Day but it also will infuse your kitchen with a satisfying turkey aroma.

Rich Turkey Stock

Makes about 12 cups

The key to a rich turkey stock is to simmer roasted, rather than raw, turkey parts. This stock forms the basis for the gravy. You can use some of the stock to make the stuffing, and any extra stock can be used for soup the day after Thanksgiving. This is our standard stock recipe, adapted from the November 2003 issue of Food & Wine magazine.

MAKE AHEAD: Turkey parts for stock, such as wings, drumsticks and thighs, are now available in many markets. The stock may be made 3 days in advance (or sooner, and frozen).

7 pounds turkey parts, such as wings, thighs and drumsticks*

1 large onion, thickly sliced

1 large carrot, peeled and thickly sliced

1 large stalk celery, thickly sliced (optional)

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

4 quarts (16 cups) water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the turkey parts in a single layer in a large roasting pan and roast for about 11/2 hours, until well browned.

Transfer the roasted turkey parts to a large pot. (Reserve the roasting pan.) Add the onion, carrot, celery, if desired, garlic, salt and several pinches of pepper along with 12 cups of water. Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, place the roasting pan over 2 burners on the stovetop. Add the remaining 4 cups of water to the pan, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Cook, using a wooden spoon to stir and scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Carefully pour the liquid from the roasting pan into the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover and simmer for about 21/2 hours. Strain the stock, discarding the solids or removing the turkey meat from the bones; reserve the meat for another use. Set the stock aside to cool slightly. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. Skim the fat from the surface before using. (May skim the fat, then freeze for up to 3 months.)

*NOTE: Other turkey parts -- neck, giblets, heart and liver -- are usually contained in small bags placed in a turkey cavity (there's one at the neck and one at the breastbone). You may add the neck and giblets to the roasting pan or the stock, but don't add the liver, which would make the stock bitter.

Ingredients too variable for meaningful analysis.

Turkey Gravy

Makes about 2 cups, or 8 servings

You could take a shortcut by using canned chicken broth, but the gravy has much more depth of flavor if you start with Rich Turkey Stock (see previous recipe). Avoid lumps by whisking the turkey fat and flour (with a pinch of salt) until they form a smooth roux and then gradually -- gradually! -- add the warm stock. Adapted from the November 2003 issue of Food & Wine magazine.

MAKE AHEAD: Nope. The gravy needs both turkey fat and the defatted drippings from the turkey roasting pan, so though the stock can be prepared ahead, the gravy can't be made until the turkey comes out of the oven. (Use a fat separator cup to isolate the fat from the drippings.)

4 tablespoons turkey fat (from the drippings in the turkey roasting pan)

Salt

4 tablespoons flour

About 2 cups Rich Turkey Stock (see previous recipe), chicken stock or broth, heated until almost boiling

Defatted juices (from the drippings in the turkey roasting pan)

Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the turkey fat until it is warmed through. Add a pinch of salt to the flour and, using a whisk or a fork, stir the flour into the fat and cook, whisking constantly, until a paste forms. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 2 more minutes. Gradually add the hot stock or broth in quarter-cup increments, whisking until it is completely incorporated after each addition. Continue to cook, whisking occasionally, until the gravy simmers and thickens, about 5 minutes. Slowly add the defatted juices and salt and pepper to taste, whisking to combine.

If desired, strain the gravy. If you prefer a thinner gravy, add a little more stock. Serve immediately.

Per 1/4-cup serving (using low-sodium chicken broth): 83 calories, 1 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 7 g cholesterol, 2 g saturated fat, 10 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber.

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