The turkey-day count-down begins…

…at least it does for me. There were no hangdog looks from me when my kids announced they were having Thanksgiving at their partner’s parent’s home; I’ve reinvented my Thanksgiving tradition to fall the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving. With grown kids in relationships (which mean new families with their own holiday traditions), celebrating the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving is the only way we can get everyone under one roof.

I make my own stock with turkey wings, necks and legs available at many groceries a few weeks prior to Thanksgiving.

I make my own stock with turkey wings, necks and legs available at many groceries a few weeks prior to Thanksgiving. To save time, your gravy will be fine using pre-made turkey or chicken stock.

So I’ve made my plan of attack, and it begins with gravy – the importance of which can never be underestimated. It lends moisture and flavor to turkey (which, if mishandled, can be bland and dry) and imagine a bowl of fluffy white mashed potatoes without a gravy boat by their side. I tell you what they’d be: shamefully naked – disgraced.

I always make my gravy several days in advance; there’s entirely too much action involved getting the food on the table to make a last minute gravy. So I make this  base several days in advance, then stir in turkey drippings at the last minute. Sautéed mushrooms and/or giblets are another tasty niblets you may add.

Roast Turkey with Lemons and Sage Butter

Roast Turkey with Lemons and Sage Butter

Here are the other recipes I’ve inserted into my Turkey-Day Count-Down spreadsheet; click the gold Holiday Cookbook ball icon (on your right and up) for a plethora of well-tested recipes, I’ve made through the years, some which can be made in minutes.

Meet the cast: Butternut Squash and Apple Soup (Can be made 2 days in advance; I’m serving them as a stand-up appetizer in snifters; and omitting the chipotle and cumin) Marinated Shrimp (Everyone loves these for an appetizer, and they may be made a day in advance). Wild Rice Stuffing with Sausage & Fennel (my son would be devastated if I left this one out; may be made the day ahead), Roast Turkey with Lemons & Sage Butter, Cranberry Orange Relish (can be made up to 4 days in advance), Roasted Garlic Mashed Potato & Mushroom Casserole Roasted Brussels Sprouts (I’ll omit the chanterelle sauce; and I’ve only one oven so I roast them after pulling out the turkey) and finally, Sweet Potato Pecan Pie (this gives my daughter a mission when she arrives on Saturday.)

Recipe: Make-ahead Gravy


  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 rib celery, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 small onion or two leeks, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups (32 ounces) turkey, chicken or beef stock (or combination)*
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh minced rosemary
  • 5 whole black peppercorns
  • Pan drippings from turkey


  1. In food processor, pulse carrot until chopped into small pieces but not puréed. Remove and reserve. Repeat the process with celery and onions or leeks.
  2. Heat 1/4 cup butter in large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add vegetables and sauté with a pinch of kosher salt, stirring frequently until softened and well browned, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium.
  3. Stir in flour and cook, whisking constantly, until lightly browned and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Whisking constantly, gradually add chicken or beef stock. Bring to boil, removing any small burnt bits that may form on pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and add bay leaf, rosemary and peppercorns. Simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened and reduced to 3 cups, about 20 minutes.
  4. Strain gravy through fine-mesh strainer into sauce pan, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper. (Recipe may be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated, tightly covered, at this point. It may also be frozen up to 4 weeks in advance.)
  5. Reheat gravy, if refrigerated, whisk in turkey pan juices and serve.

*Turkey wings are available at most groceries well in advance of Thanksgiving. You may prefer to make homemade stock for the gravy. If so, roast 4 turkey wings in a 400˚ oven with onions on top 60 to 90 minutes until golden brown. Place in stock pot with dripping and add at least 6 cups of water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 1 1/2 hours. Strain before using as stock.

Number of servings (yield): 3-4 cups 

Active Time (if using purchased stock): 40 minutes

Simmer Time: 30 minutes

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