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Making gravy is for the birds

Published November 20. 2010 09:00AM

I would like to wish everyone in advance a very Happy Thanksgiving. By this time next week, many of probably will be sick of looking at turkey for another year, but right now there is the anticipation for that feast dancing in many of our heads. Cooking a turkey can be challenging. I've done it two or three times and the birds have ended up being rather tasty if I do say so myself.

Of course my gravy is a different story. I've made gravy three times in my life from scratch. It's one of those things I'm determined to get right sooner or later although after 20 years it's more like later. I should point out 20 years seems like a long time. That's because like a dutiful son or son-in-law, I subvert my cooking for my parents or Katie's parents or her grandmother. They ask us to dinner and who am I to refuse? Especially since I know their gravy is much better than mine.

The first time I attempted to make gravy, I discovered why you don't mix cornstarch in hot broth. At the time I was finishing my bird and I thought, "Hey, I should make some gravy". My second thought was "how did my mom do this?" and my third thought was, "Oh yeah, she used cornstarch."

I happened to have one of those mixing cups. I'm referring to that plastic cup with the lid and the opening from which you can pour the cup's contents. It also has a little propeller shaped insert that is placed in the cup supposedly to mix the contents, although I don't understand how a propeller that doesn't spin mix anything. I soon learned that was the least of my problems. I put a cup of broth in the container and then got the cornstarch from the shelf. Next, I took a spoonful or two in the container and quickly capped it in preparation for shaking it. This became the culinary equivalent of being in a speeding rocket heading for a brick wall.

My education only took a few seconds as the pressure in the container quickly built and blew the lid of the container off of it as well as my right hand. Hot broth glop flew out of the container almost immediately splashing all over the counter. It was at that point I realized the error of my ways and it was the last time I attempted to that particular technique. It took me 20 minutes to clean that mess up on the counter.

After several years of homemade gravy hiatus, I attempted it again last year. This time I used my experience to my advantage or so I thought. I wasn't about to repeat my error so this time I dissolved a teaspoon of cornstarch in some water with the idea of mixing that solution into my broth. It probably would have worked a little better if I believed that a teaspoon was enough, but when I looked at the cup it seemed so watery that I figured maybe another tablespoonful or so would be better. In retrospect, it probably would have been better for a gallon of gravy but not for the few cups my plan intended to produce in a gravy boat.

The second attempt didn't blow up this time, a result for which I was grateful. Unfortunately , the spoon stood up in the mixture and I believe if I had left it cool off completely, then I would have been able to lift the concoction right of the bowl. Foiled again! I made gelatin more fluid than this cornstarchy solid.

A month or two later I was determined to try again. I was not willing to accept defeat this time. On this third attempt, I resisted the temptation to add cornstarch to the hot broth and as well as adding too much cornstarch. Finally, I was successful, although I realize that I should try to do this a few more times before claiming a complete culinary success.

Apparently I'm not the only one to have Thanksgiving cooking issues. Butterball opens a hot line to answer questions and a recent story from AOL News on the web has revealed some entertaining or unusual turkey questions. I wanted to share some with you so enjoy as you prepare your feast. These are transcribed from an AOL Newsfeed with my thoughts.

1. "What do I do if my turkey is on fire?" Many sitcoms recommend ordering pizza when your primary meal burns up in smoke. On the ABC soap, ordering pizza is a Quartermaine family tradition.

2. "When do I have to put my turkey in the oven to have it done by half-time?" I don't know. Does the turkey have the odds on the winning team? You may want to put him in by kick-off. Of course if his team is losing he may crawl in on his own.

3. "Can I cook my turkey on a bed of kitty litter?" It depends on who is eating it. You or your cat?

4. "If I put the phone in my turkey, can you tell me if it's done?" Perhaps and if you put your television in your ear I can see where your brain went.

Of course my all time favorite turkey quote comes from Arthur Carlson at the end of one of the funniest TV episodes of all-time. "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly…"

Til next time, have a very Happy Thanksgiving….

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