Stressed over upcoming holiday meals? This Make-Ahead Gravy is the real deal! Made with roasted chicken wings, carrots, onions, fresh herbs and broth, it’s not only super delicious, it makes entertaining so much easier!
This make-ahead gravy is a lifesaver, and I’ll be the first one to testify!
You might think, being a food blogger, that I’m an expert Thanksgiving cooker. Not so. Years ago, when my children were young, I made a deal with my mother-in-law. Since our children, Cait and Nick, both had birthdays at the end of November, I asked if she (Nanny) would “do” Thanksgiving each year and, in return, I would be the Christmas chef.
It worked like a charm, with her being responsible annually for the Thanksgiving turkey, dressing and mashed potatoes. I had fun coming up with a few sides and dessert and the joint effort produced a wonderful meal.
The problem came many years later when Nanny got too old to take on all the stress of a big dinner. By that time, the kids had grown up, so I didn’t think it would be a big deal for me to take over Thanksgiving. Was I ever wrong!
My first attempt to “do” it all was quite a frenzy. I had no idea about all the timing that was involved, getting the turkey done just right, the mashed potatoes perfectly timed and that darn gravy. I didn’t understand how tricky it was to prepare it at the very last minute when so many other things needed attention too. I survived, but my gratitude to Nanny was more than ever!
Make-ahead is the best-kept secret
I’m still not an expert when it comes to Thanksgiving but I’ve learned a few tricks over the years that make it much easier. Anything that can be made ahead is a huge bonus and, if it tastes just as good as when it’s done at the last minute, that’s even better!
Our Slow Cooker Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes have become quite beloved with many Café readers who love this not only the convenience but the fact that this recipe can be made a day or two in advance and warmed up while the turkey finishes roasting.
This make-ahead gravy is another one of those Thanksgiving Day stress relievers. Trying to make gravy from pan drippings while making sure the turkey doesn’t get cold and all the other sides are timed perfectly can set even the best cook’s head spinning.
Before Anthony Bourdain (the world-renowned chef) passed away, I heard one of his podcasts. He shared that it was easier for him to cook dinner for 300 at his restaurant than to get it all together for a Thanksgiving dinner at home. That made me feel a little better about not being a super pro when it comes to Thanksgiving!
Make the gravy a day or two in advance
This make-ahead gravy is the antithesis of stress. Prepare the gravy a day or two in advance, or a week before and freeze it till the big day. Just warm it up before serving and then; act cool, calm and collected, like you do this every day!
The gravy’s made with chicken wings, carrots and onions, all roasted to golden deliciousness and then simmered in chicken broth with fresh herbs to draw out all the wonderful “real deal” flavor. It can be made anytime you have a few hours at home. Almost all of it is “hands-off” time, so you can just enjoy the wonderful aroma that fills your home as you tend to other things.
This make-ahead gravy not only reduces stress but it’s also great for grilled or deep-fried turkeys
Our daughter, Cait, and her family lived in London for 8 years. During this adventure overseas, she was (in a way) forced to start a new Thanksgiving tradition which has turned out to be a keeper. The ovens in most British homes are too small for a big American-size turkey, so for their first Thanksgiving overseas, she decided to grill the turkey. It turned out so delicious, she never turned back. Now that the family is back in the States (yay!) and Cait has a large oven, the tradition of grilled turkey still lives on!
Which is another wonderful reason for make-ahead gravy. When you grill, smoke or deep fry a turkey you don’t get the good turkey drippings, which make for delicious gravy. Sure, you can purchase gravy in a jar at the grocery store or make a quick gravy from chicken broth, but it’s nothing like the real thing. This make-ahead gravy is loaded with delicious, real-deal flavor and (if you don’t tell), I have a feeling, not a soul will know you didn’t labor over the hot turkey pan!
Café Tips for preparing this Make-Ahead Gravy
- Don’t use a deep-sided pan to roast the chicken wings. You want the oven heat to be able to get at the wings and work its caramelization magic. A deep pan will cause the wings to steam rather than roast. A heavy-duty sheet pan (I love these Oxo sheet pans) or a shallow-sided roasting pan will work best.
- In lots of recipes I like to line the pan I’m using with foil for easy cleanup. Not with this make-ahead gravy recipe. You want to be able to scrape up all the delicious fond (the brown stuff that sticks to the bottom of the pan) after the chicken wings and veggies are roasted to give that wonderful (real-deal) flavor to your gravy.
- Be sure to purchase whole chicken wings for this Make-Ahead Gravy. Wings are sold either whole or separately as drummettes, wingettes and/or tips. You want the whole wings, as the smaller parts will tend to roast too fast and you won’t get the wonderful fond.
- If you don’t have both fresh rosemary and sage, it’s fine to just use one or the other. Although fresh herbs add great flavor, you could also use a teaspoon of poultry seasoning when simmering the wings, in lieu of the rosemary and sage.
- The recipe makes a quart of gravy, so there should be plenty for everyone. If you’re serving a huge crowd, you might want to double the recipe. If you do make a double batch, use two sheet pans or roasting pans, so the wings can still brown nicely.
- I like Wondra flour for gravy and sauces. It’s just ground finer and helps prevent lumps. All-purpose flour will work fine though, just follow the tip below.
- At the very end of the recipe, be sure to add the flour mixture slowly. This will thicken the gravy to your desired consistency but can cause lumping, if it’s added too fast. If you get impatient and end up with small lumps, you can put the gravy through a fine-mesh sieve. Just push on any lumps at the end to get all the good gravy through the sieve.
This real-deal, make-ahead gravy is not only super delicious, but it also makes holiday entertaining so much easier!
- 2 ½ pounds chicken wings
- 1 large onion peeled and quartered
- 3 medium carrots scrubbed (no need to peel) and cut into approximately 2-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 8 cups chicken broth divided
- 1 large bay leaf
- 4 medium size fresh sage leaves
- 2 4- inch sprigs fresh rosemary
- 6 tablespoons flour (preferably Wondra flour but all-purpose will also work).
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Arrange wings, onions and carrots on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and pepper. Toss to coat, then spread everything out to a single layer.
- Roast wings and veggies 1- 1 1/4 hours until wings are golden brown.
Transfer wings and vegetables to a large Dutch oven or stockpot.
Add 1 cup of the broth to roasting (sheet) pan and let sit for 10 minutes, then stir to scrape up all the brown bits on the bottom. Transfer this liquid to the Dutch oven.
Add 6 1/2 cups of the broth (reserve 1/2 cup), bay leaf, sage and rosemary to the Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Reduce to a slow but steady simmer and cook, uncovered 1 hour.
Strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve and refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 days.
When ready to use, skim the fat off broth and discard. Transfer broth to a large saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a steady simmer.
Whisk flour into the remaining 1/2 cup of broth until smooth and lump-free. To avoid lumpy gravy, SLOWLY pour flour mixture into simmering broth, WHILE WHISKING CONTINUOUSLY, until desired consistency is reached (you might not use all of the flour mixture). Simmer for 2-3 minutes longer. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve immediately or keep warm till ready to serve. Gravy can also be frozen for up to 4 months.
For additional instructions, follow the Café Tips in the above post.