Tag Archives: roast turkey

About that gravy. (Roast turkey and gravy, pavochón-style)

25 Nov

Let’s start by saying that I did NOT screw up the gravy this year. (Click here for last year’s debacle). In fact, it was smooth, fragrant and delicious.

Brining the turkey requires just a bucket, a trash bag, salt and water. The difference it makes is amazing!

However, (you knew this was coming) it was also too damn salty.  But… Pedro’s turkey, duly brined and seasoned Puerto Rican-style, was juicy, tasty and all around wonderful. And I have worked out why and the gravy recipe (which may very well be repeated at Christmas, and certainly next Thanksgiving) has been modified accordingly.

Leandro mashed up the adobo

So what happened with the gravy?

Pedro really gets in there with the adobo

Two things. Usually to make the turkey stock I add my own home-made chicken stock which has little or no salt additional to whatever salt the carcass I used brought with it, or I buy low-sodium stock to simmer in conjunction with the turkey necks. This time, I used store-bought chicken stock with all the salt, thereby adding salt where none was needed.

Trussed and oven-ready

Two, the pavochón-style spice rub (adobo) that is actually a recipe for roast pork/roast suckling pig modified for turkey is saltier than what we usually prepare (and Pedro cut the amount recommended in the classic Cocina Criolla by Carmen Aboy de Valldejuli in half!).

And…a beautiful pavochón!

The turkey was perfectly salted, but the pan juices that I relied on for the gravy were much saltier than I anticipated. So, live and learn.

Pan juices on the stove for deglazing

The solution? The next time we make this particular adobo, I will make sure that I have my own no-salt stock laid by for the gravy.

Smooth, baby. Smooth.

And this time, at least, my mom didn’t have to bust out the jar of gravy. I think this time she didn’t even buy one. I appreciate the vote of confidence.

The Surgeon at Work

Roast Turkey, Latin-style (Pavochón)

Overnight, brine a 10-12 lb turkey, quills removed and neck and giblets (excluding liver!) reserved for making stock. (8 quarts water, 2 Cups kosher salt in a bucket lined with a trash bag. Keep chilled overnight)

In a large mortar and pestle, mash:

3 large cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

20-25 peppercorns


1.5 Tbs oregano (dry)

1Tbs oregano (fresh or just add another half Tbs dry)

6 tsp coarse kosher salt (1/2 tsp per pound)

4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

Additional ingredients for the turkey cavity:

1 stalk celery, snapped in half

1 carrot, peeled, and sliced in half

1 onion, peeled and cut into chunks

1 bay leaf

Additional ingredients for the gravy:

1 navel orange, peel on, chopped into chunks

1 red onion, peeled, chopped into rough chunks

1 Tbs butter, softened

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

4 Cups turkey stock (as low in salt as possible)

1/3 Cup all-purpose flour


Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Use the ingredients in the mortar and pestle to season the inside and outside of the bird and under the skin. Leave some of the spice paste in the mortar and pestle and add additional oil; you will be using this for basting.

Stuff the turkey with the ingredients for the cavity. Tie the drumsticks together and pin the wings to the body with small skewers.

Put the turkey on a rack set in a large flameproof roasting pan and roast in the center of the oven for 30 minutes.

While turkey is roasting, toss the orange chunks and onion in the butter and oil listed under gravy ingredients.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Brush more spice paste (adding oil if necessary) all over the bird. Put the orange chunks and onion underneath the rack (this will season the pan juices which you will need for the gravy) and return the turkey to the oven, basting every thirty minutes until an instant read thermometer inserted into the fleshy part of the thigh reads 170°F.

Important note: We also had a pop-up thermometer in the breast, which popped up waaaaay before the thighs were cooked (a typical problem and the reason why the breast on roasted whole turkey is often dry and overcooked. We simply turned the turkey over onto the breast and kept roasting, sacrificing crispy skin for juicy breast. You decide what you want – we may actually cook the bird in pieces next year – but having two different thermometers for the two major zones of the bird was very helpful).

When the bird is done (total roasting time is 1.5-2 hours), remove and discard the vegetables in the cavity and let the bird rest on a platter for an hour before slicing.

Gravy (do this right away so the liquids are still hot)

Transfer the pan juices (with oranges and onions) to a 2-quart glass measure, then skim off and reserve ¼ Cup fat.

Add enough turkey stock to bring the pan juice level to 4.5 Cups.

Set roasting pan across two burners, add one cup of the pan juice mixture and deglaze pan over moderately high heat, scraping off any brown bits. Add the rest of the pan juice mixture and bring to a simmer. Strain through a fine sieve back into your 2-quart glass container and discard the onions and oranges.

In a heavy saucepan, whisk the reserved fat and flour together and cook at medium low, whisking, for about 3 minutes. Then add hot pan juice mixture in a fast stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, then simmer, whisking occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until thickened. Salt to taste (but we didn’t need ANY additional salt. We needed LESS salt!)

Serve turkey with gravy on the side.



A Ruined Gravy, but Still Successful Turkey Stock (pre- or post-roast)

29 Nov

True confessions from Thanksgiving? I screwed up the gravy. Yes, I did.

I forgot to leave out the liver when simmering the stock and suddenly, as everything was going ever so well, Leandro having helped me assemble the ingredients and snip the thyme from our little container outside and put everything together…I smelt it. We went from that fragrant poultry and herb simmering gorgeousness to a deep, ugly pungency that for someone with a liver aversion, someone like me, who feels ill with just a whiff of the awful offal, well, that smells like disaster.

I dumped lock, stock and barrel, opened the windows and managed to salvage something resembling gravy from just the juices of the roast turkey (all available stock having been used up for other dishes), but it was so damn salty it could only be used drop by drop and I didn’t have time to thin it. Perhaps worse than the stock — and therefore gravy — failure on my part, my mom got to use the packet of powdered s**t that she bought just in case I should eff it up (to her credit, she didn’t gloat very much over saving the day).

Those of you out there who are really from-scratch foodies will feel my pain, will understand that the handy envelope is evil like heroin, that it feels even worse than resorting to the drive-thru Happy Meal with the toy because you are just not a good enough parent to stand another minute of whinging child in the back seat….that it is — if not rock-bottom — somewhere pretty deep to go.

But, nevermind – everything else  — the bird, the veg, the potatoes…the stuffing! — was delicious and joyous and I let it go…pretty much. I focused on the future, because not only does Thanksgiving return the next year so you get  to try again (and make different mistakes), but also, alleluyah, the roasted carcass of that delicious bird offers possibilities for redemption.

So here is my normally very successful stock recipe. You can make it when you’ve got the turkey neck and giblets (LEAVE THE LIVER OUT, PLEASE!!! – Do as I say, not as I do) while the turkey is roasting (or the night before without distractions, which is what I should have done) or use the carcass after (which is what I did, just fine!). Or both!


Dots of gravy - more point of honor than glory

Turkey Stock

(from Thanksgiving roasted carcass OR turkey neck and giblets)

1 post-roasted turkey carcass, usable meat removed and carcass separated into pieces

OR at least one turkey neck and giblets (EXCEPT liver)

8 whole black peppercorns

3 sprigs thyme

3 sprigs parsley

1 onion, peeled and spiked with two cloves

3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

Place all ingredients in a large pot with enough water to cover (2 quarts). Bring to a boil, scooping off foam. Reduce heat and simmer until water is reduced by at least half. (I usually leave it at least an hour). Strain through a sieve into a container that will let you scoop off fat when the stock cools and the fat rises to the top. Use to make gravy or store for another dish. Will keep several days in the fridge; three months in the freezer.

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