Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Great Turkey Stock Recipe

For some reason, making homemade gravy tends to scare the heck out of people.

I suppose it is the possibility of icky lumps (introduce yourself to an immersion blender, trust me on this one) spoiling the loveliness of the gravy's pourability.  Or, even worse, tasteless gravy made from a too bland turkey/chicken stock.

There are a number of ways to fix tasteless gravy, that include adding extra salt and pepper, fresh herbs and/or bouillion cubes to amp the flavor.

The best way to avoid tasteless gravy syndrome, though?  Really, really good stock.

For the last few years, I've dabbled with a recipe that I found in Cooking Light magazine.  It produces a rich, flavorful stock that works really well for gravy or soup.  And it is worth the time to make some a day or two before Thanksgiving, so you have it on hand for gravy, basting and stuffing.

Here's my version of the recipe:

Rich Roasted Turkey Stock

3 lbs. turkey wings, thighs and/or drumsticks (Wings give a richer broth, so try to do at least a mix if at all possible -- chicken wings will do in a pinch, but you'll have lighter-tasting chicken broth and not that deeper turkey flavor.  I've also done a mix of chicken and turkey wings before and it turned out really yummy.)
1 gal. water, divided  (or less, depending on the size of your crockpot -- fill to at least an inch below the rim so you don't have issues with it bubbling up past the lid)
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil or canola oil
3 c. chopped onion (about 2 medium)
1 c. shredded carrot (about 2 medium or buy pre-shredded)
1 c. chopped celery (about 2 or 3 stalks)
1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. poultry seasoning (I absolutely love Penzey's poultry seasoning blend. It's wonderfully fragrant and full of flavor.)
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley
1 bay leaf

Preheat oven to 450°.

Place wings in a single layer on a metal sheet pan with a lip to hold juices. Or place wings in a dutch oven and let them bake, uncovered, if you don't feel comfortable placing a big sheet pan on your burners. (A sheet pan will give you more even browning but, if like me you have an electric stove, placing a big sheet pan on your burners can be tricky -- so I trade perfectly even browning on a flat sheet pan for the more easily maneuvered safety of my big, enameled cast-iron Dutch oven.  But YMMV.)

Bake at 450° for 1 hour or so, until browned. Remove wings from pan and place in the crockpot immediately. Then, place pan over medium-high heat; stir in 1 cup water, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Remove from heat.

Pour water in crockpot, scraping bottom of pan again to remove all browned bits to get them into the crockpot. (These really are key to the flavor of this stock.  Those browned bits are magic, I swear.)  I use a large, oval crockpot for this so I can fit a lot of water in to make lots of stock.

Then, wipe out Dutch oven and pop it back on the stove.

Heat oil in the Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring to evenly soften and slightly brown the veggies.  Swish some water into the pan, and scrape the bottom to loosen any browned bits. Then add all of this to turkey in crockpot.

Add as much of the remaining 15 cups water as you can for your crockpot capacity, along with peppercorns, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf. Cook on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours, or on LOW for up to 8 hours. (The original recipe called for doing this on the stovetop, but I like the even cooking in the crockpot better because I don't have to watch it so closely and can make the stock while I'm doing other make-ahead dishes.  In my book, easy is almost always better if I can get the same taste out of it.)

Once the stock has fully simmered and flavor has developed, strain through a fine-meshed sieve over a bowl; discard solids. Cover and chill overnight. Skim solidified fat from surface; discard fat.

Depending on the size of your crockpot, you'll end up with anywhere from 6 to 12 cups of stock. I freeze some and use the rest for Thanksgiving cooking.

PS -- Here is the Cooking Light recipe that went with the stock for some really easy gravy.  

(Photo via Jen Waller.)


Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I have a inquiry for the webmaster/admin here at

Can I use some of the information from this post right above if I give a link back to this website?


Christy Hardin Smith said...

Absolutely, Jules -- so long as there is a link back, feel free.