Not Martha

Our First Turkey, the Gravy Experiment

gloved hand holding Marmite and pink sugar

This is how I ended up braving a snow storm in Seattle and came home with a jar of Marmite and some pink sugar.

Yesterday as a big snow storm was starting to really get going I sat down to research how to make gravy. I started to panic a bit as I found recipe after recipe that involved sauteed onion/carrot/celery and needed turkey stock and included scraping up the lovely browned bits from the bottom of a roasting pan. Because we rarely (see also: never) roast large things we don’t have a proper roasting pan and we’ll be using one of those wire reinforced aluminum deals. Also seeing as we’re having our low-maintenance Thanksgiving I was resistant to go through all the gravy steps. Then I found this recipe for Dead Simple Turkey Gravy at Serious Eats and knew I’d just have to try it. But I didn’t have any Marmite in the house. So I bundled up and headed out to try to get back before the streets froze over.

You see, here in Seattle we get a particularly nasty slippery sort of snow that quickly freezes into a pretty layer of black ice covered in more slippery snow resulting in things like last night’s fiasco of 8 hour commutes home, speeds of 1.2 MPH on I-5, bendy buses sliding and blocking all lanes of the highway, cars running out of gas and being abandoned along the side of the highway and cars attempting to climb hills only to slide allll the way back down*. I felt so very bad for everybody stuck in traffic for 8+ hours. Gah. Seattle, despite all it’s best efforts, just cannot handle snow. I grew up in Ohio and know how to drive in the snow here. That is to say, by not driving if at all possible. I wasn’t taking my own advice.

ingredients for Marmite gravy

I found the Marmite in the baking aisle and spotted the colored sugar while I was walking past. It reminded me I’d been meaning to try to make colored kettle corn using the advice a few people gave me. This is how I ended up with the pink sugar. And a bottle of pink prosecco to go with it.

herbs in the gravy mixture

I made the gravy this evening and I’m a little skeptical. I added a few of the herbs I bought to go on the roasting turkey, sage, rosemary, thyme, during the simmer stage. On Thanksgiving I’ll add what juices I can pour out of our aluminum roasting pan and heat the gravy while the turkey is resting. I’ll report back on how it turns out.

pink popcorn and pink prosecco

The popcorn, sadly, didn’t have as bright a pink outcome as I’d hoped. But it was yummy and fun to eat while watching snow fall past the windows.

* Abandoned cars, closed airports and roads frozen before salt could do it’s work certainly did happen in Ohio. But the infrastructure of plows and rescue vehicles was larger and untangled things before the local news could get to feigning absolute doom. Also, Ohio was flat as a pancake when compared to Seattle’s hills.

· comments [24] · 11-24-2010 · categories:food · holidays ·

24 responses so far ↓

  • 1 patty // Nov 24, 2010 at 6:02 am

    put the aluminum turkey roasting pan on a cookie sheet. The pan itself isn’t very strong and could leak.

  • 2 Katxena // Nov 24, 2010 at 7:56 am

    It’s not a great idea to use the juices from a brined turkey in your gravy. It will be the saltiest gravy you have ever tasted. Do consider using some of the fat from the bottom of the pan in place of some (or all of) the butter. Turkey fat tastes like turkey, so that will add flavor.

  • 3 Jen // Nov 24, 2010 at 9:11 am

    You should try living in the Southeastern US for a while if you want to see how truly not to handle snow. I grew up in Georgia. Ant time it would start to flurry outside, people would run out of work and school to go stare at it in wonder, and everyone would start fretting about driving home in the “blizzard” and wish they had driven their tauntaun that day.

    Now I live in Chicago where the sky can dump 3 feet overnight and no one bats an eye. :)

  • 4 abby // Nov 24, 2010 at 10:02 am

    I’m from MI, I feel your pain. I live in Philly now, and while we do get snow here, it’s nothing like I grew up with. If the forecast calls for more than 2-3″, everyone rushes to the grocery store and stocks up on milk, bread and eggs. I guess if we get snowed in everyone is planning on making french toast!

  • 5 Rebecca // Nov 24, 2010 at 11:04 am

    My favorite simple/lazy gravy is just a roux (~2 tb ea. butter and flour) with about a cup of wine and two cups of chicken stock or broth wisked in. Maybe a little cream at the end. Dead simple with pretty good results. (We can never use the turkey drippings since we brine and then deconstruct the turkey.)

  • 6 Lindsay // Nov 24, 2010 at 11:23 am

    It’s funny the different things that different people decide must be made by hand rather than purchased. I too am planning a lazy Thanksgiving (my favorite kind), but while I’m totally making the stuffing from scratch, the gravy is store bought. I got it from Trader Joe’s and I’m pretty sure I had it last year and liked it, but we shall see if I’m just making up the fond memories so as not to touch turkey drippings. ;) Good luck!

  • 7 Matilda // Nov 24, 2010 at 11:46 am

    I’m a huge Kenji fan, so I’ll be interested in how the gravy works out. (I don’t make the turkey since I traditionally don’t host–I am sometimes envious of those who get to stay in their own houses during the holidays.) I’ve made his chili and Pekin duck, which were both amazing!

  • 8 Carrie // Nov 24, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Seconding Patty’s comment! And about gravy… I never seem to get my flour smooth. Not sure what’s going on there, so I opted for Williams-Sonoma gravy base. Too late for you to go out and get it now, but you empty the jar into a pot, add milk and some drippings and voila! Better than the other jarred stuff out there.

  • 9 Maureen // Nov 24, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    I seriously thought that you were somehow going to put the pink sparkling sugar into the gravy. Phew …

  • 10 megan // Nov 24, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Thanks Patty! I will do that. Luckily we have a large enough rimmed cookie sheet.

    Katxena – I’ve read various advice on that. Pioneer Woman says to rinse the brine off before roasting so that the gravy won’t be too salty. I think I’m going to make a simple gravy from the drippings to see how it turns out.

    Jen – Hee! I think Seattle bumbles a bit because we don’t believe it’s actually going to snow and stick, so you end up with a city that doesn’t get to leave work and school until the roads are frozen.

    Rebecca and Lindsay – Thanks for the recommendations. I’ll use these next time we’re doing turkey to see how they compare. I’m excited about all these gravy options.

    Matilda – I have to say if it wasn’t Kenji I probably wouldn’t have considered it. I’ll definitely be reporting on how it turned out.

    Carrie – I’ll add the W-S gravy base to my list of things to try and compare, thank you.

    Thank you all, I’m giddy over the prospect of comparing all these options. We might have to make reasons for more turkeys. Maybe a Valentines turkey?

  • 11 megan // Nov 24, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Maureen – I fully admit I have no idea what I’m doing in the kitchen. If somebody had a recipe for gravy that included colored sanding sugar I probably would give it a try so your fears weren’t unfounded.

  • 12 Shelly Kang // Nov 24, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Megan, enjoy your first time making your own Thanksgiving dinner. You’ll do great. The gravy is really very easy – broth, fat, flour and salt and pepper. Keep it simple. In my opinion, the gravy is more about texture than flavor – all you need are salt and pepper for seasoning. I like to put my flour in a small sealable container and shake it up before adding to the pan to avoid lumps. Use the pan drippings if they’re not too salty, otherwise some butter and boxed broth work great. I use the recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, but any basic recipe will do – the simpler the better. It frustrates me to no end that my inlaw’s family uses powdered gravy at Thanksgiving and it’s all chemical-flavored. Still, I go there and eat with a smile because it’s really about family and being together.

    Oh, and here comes a little more unsolicited advice. Do the mashed potatoes early in the day and keep them warm in a crock pot. They stay nice and smushy-warm, and it’s one less thing to scramble with at the last minute.

  • 13 Amy in StL // Nov 24, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    I used to live on the southeast coast and when it snowed things closed down. They don’t have salt or a spreader truck, just a couple guys with sand and shovels get out and work on the bridges over the water. It was crazy!

  • 14 MamaLana // Nov 24, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    I make two or three cups of Turkey Broth by simmering for several hours the neck, gizzards, and wings in boxed chicken broth along with a halved onion, a scraped carrot, a celery rib, a bunch of parsley, a bay leaf, and some pepper corns. Put the resulting brew through a sieve or colander and then make gravy with roux and turkey broth. You can add the gizzards and neck, chopped. Tasty.

    Your Seattle snow experience reminds me of those in Washington, D.C. ! Love those 8-hr commutes! Argh. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • 15 Traci // Nov 24, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    That colored popcorn reminds me of Mother Goose popcorn, which my mom made all the time when I was a kid. I found a similar recipe here:

    But I think my mom always used evaporated milk instead of regular milk.

  • 16 Seanna Lea // Nov 24, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Consider Patty seconded. I did a turkey one year in one of those and the pan broke on part of the baking rack and there was a mess all over the oven. Yuck!

  • 17 megan // Nov 24, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Traci – How perfect! I must get more pink champagne soon to recreate my pink foods evening.

    Seanna Lea – Heard and understood, thanks so much for the fair warning!

  • 18 megan b. // Nov 25, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Thanks for this, Megan! I happened to have marmite in the pantry (really), so I made this version of the gravy with my homemade turkey stock, and it was the best gravy I’ve ever had. Though I added a hit of balsamic and a splash of honey to add a bit more complexity.

  • 19 megan // Nov 25, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Megan that is so good to know! We’ll be trying ours out with the turkey a little later and I’ll report back.

  • 20 ellen // Nov 26, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    It’s a big relief to know that pink sugar is not needed for turkey gravy! I don’t usually have marmite around; my grandmother always used Kitchen Bouquet ( ) to pump up the flvor and color so I use it too.

  • 21 tobias cooks! // Nov 28, 2010 at 5:12 am

    Fun expiment!

  • 22 Kevin // Nov 28, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    Megan, where did you find marmite? I’ve looked at PCC, QFC, Whole Foods.

  • 23 megan // Nov 28, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Kevin – I have to tell you I went to PCC first, and then I found it at my local (Rainier Valley, sort of small) QFC. It was in the baking aisle, and not near the powdered gravies as I thought. I think it was near boullions? Maybe? Definitely in the baking aisle though, as that is how I ended up with pink sanding sugar.

  • 24 pam // Nov 29, 2010 at 11:14 am

    I spent Christmas in Seattle back in 1998, when my brother lived there. It snowed and I can tell you, the same stuff happened back then.

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