It can be challenging to plan a Thanksgiving meal, especially when many of your guests have special dietary requirements. The cooking-for-all-diets phenomenon has exploded in the past few years, leading to expectations of elevated holiday menus that include duos and trios of classic Thanksgiving dishes. For instance, one green bean casserole made with bacon, and one without, served together on the holiday table so that all guests can enjoy the meal.
This variation trend has even reached the gravy. For true foodies, Thanksgiving calls for homemade gravy made from turkey pan drippings and lots of stirring. Families may cherish heirloom turkey recipes, striving to have their gravy turn out as delicious as Grandma's or Grandpa's. And that classic recipe certainly has a place within your trio of turkey gravies.
Where the turkey triad gets interesting is in the gourmet twists of your additional batches of gravy. Joshua Bousel, blogger at The Meatwave, suggests porcini mushroom gravy, made with top-quality dried mushrooms; turkey gravy made with apple cider for a bit of tang; and red wine and shallot gravy for a rich, autumnal color and depth of flavor profiles.
Thick, creamy turkey recipes made with fresh herbs please those who like to indulge on the holidays, and other guests who can't dig into cream-based gravies are thrilled by the addition of lighter, vegetarian and vegan gravies.
"I was tasked with the challenge of making a vegetarian, low-sodium, gluten-free gravy. Which sounds like a disaster -- or at least impossible," says Jessica Goldman Foung, author of "Sodium Girl's Limitless Low Sodium Cookbook," who revealed her solution: cooked lentils pureed with butter, garlic, mushrooms and herbs. "The lentil puree made a meaty, rich sauce that will fit pretty much any dietary bill, and it is so easy to make, it might just become a new tradition for holidays to come."
In creating your gravy trio, you also have the option of of a boozy gravy. Food Network star Alton Brown's top gravy recipe features red wine, and Ina Garten of "The Barefoot Contessa" includes brandy or cognac.
Once you select your trio of turkey gravies, do a trial run of each recipe before Thanksgiving to ensure a pleasing taste and to get a realistic feel for how the timetable of each recipe. Timing in the kitchen is an important issue on Thanksgiving, as is stovetop space, so you'll want to time the preparation for each gravy and see if they heat up ideally in the microwave. Divide each practice batch in half to test their reheat quality on the stovetop and in the microwave to the finest appearance and flavor for your holiday meal.
Next, choose your gravy presentation. Each gravy can go in a matching gravy boat, or you might choose coordinating gravy boats. Seeing as gravy boats will be passed around the table, it's a great idea to affix labels to each gravy boat sharing the recipe name and ingredients, to inform guests for their dietary preferences and to showcase your culinary trendiness. A small tag tied to the gravy boat handle will do well.
While you're making labels, print up some extras for storage containers. Those leftover gravies will be a treat for your day-after turkey sandwiches.