We're less than a day from Thanksgiving, so you probably already have the big menu finalized, the shopping done, the prep work well under way.
Any extra advice you get at this point is just gravy, right?
If you do only one thing different this year, let it be this: Make your own gravy.
Step away from the store-bought stuff. Put that jar back on the shelf, or in the cupboard, and forget you ever saw it.
There is no comparison when it comes to homemade gravy, plus you still have plenty of time to make your own. You don't really need any special tools, ingredients or time. You can whisk up a rich, silky, game-changing gravy after that big bird comes out of the oven tomorrow.
Here's all you need to do ...
1. After removing the cooked turkey from its roasting pan, pour off all of the pan drippings except for a couple of tablespoons left in the pan. (But be sure to save the rest. It's liquid gold!) And don't dare get rid of any of those golden browned bits clinging to the bottom of the pan, either. Those are gravy gold nuggets.
2. Next, place the roasting pan over direct high heat on the stove and sprinkle flour over the hot grease. Using a wooden spoon, ideally, mix the drippings and flour to create a sludge - more appetizingly called a "roux" - and keep mixing until it turns a deep, golden brown.
3. Now, add stock to the pan and keep stirring the mixture to a desired consistency. If it becomes too thick, add more stock. If too thin, whisk in more flour.
You can also stir in fresh herbs, roasted garlic, caramelized onions or what-not for additional flavor, but you won't need to. All of the same seasonings you used to roast your turkey flavored the drippings and bits that become your gravy's base.
And once you try that, you'll never go back. I promise you that.
Speaking of gravy, here are a few tricks to rescue one that turns out a little lumpy. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
First, try whisking a little flour with water to make a slurry, then whisk the slurry into the hot gravy. Still lumpy? Try straining through a sieve, or do as one of my sister's former beaus did to salvage chunky gravy. Pull out the blender and mix it into submission.
Other Thanksgiving 911 advice ...
Keep your green veggies from turning brownish by cooking only to al dente (that's slightly crisp) and don't add any acidic dressings (think vinegar or lemon juice) until just before serving.
And the best way to avoid a limp salad is not to overdress it. Add dressing close to serving time, and then pour it down the sides of the bowl and toss gently - don't douse it over the top.
What to do, what to do with all of those turkey leftovers? Enjoy the heck out of them!
On Day 1 (or even later Thursday night) warm up a plate of the extras and enjoy just as-is. Consider it a delicious encore to the day's feast.
On Days 2 through 5, get creative.
Lighten things up with a nice salad. Mix diced turkey with toasted walnuts and dried cranberries, then stir in fresh herbs (parsley, chives and/or tarragon) and a 3-to-1 ratio of Greek yogurt and mayonnaise to a barely-creamy consistency.
In a separate bowl, toss a bunch of mixed greens with a little olive oil and lemon juice. Place dressed greens on a plate, top with your walnut-cranberry turkey salad and dig in.
Need other ideas?
Substitute turkey for chicken in quesadillas, tortilla soup, oven-baked stratas or bubbly casseroles.
And on Day 6 of looking at leftovers? Rescue the turkey carcass to make a great homemade stock and toss everything else. It's time.
After writing about our "pool to plate" experience catching and cooking our own trout at Cato Pool last week, Charleston reader Caryn Gresham wrote in to share her favorite recipe.
"The next time The Food Boy catches trout, you can try this cooking method, which is a favorite in our house," she said.
"Gut and clean the trout (we leave the heads on, but that's optional). Stuff the cavity with a few slices of yellow onion, a couple lemon wedges and a couple small pats of butter. Wrap carefully in bacon (you may need toothpicks at either end.) Wrap all in tin foil, set on the grill and cook 10 -15 minutes, depending on the size of the fish."
We were THIS CLOSE to going the bacon-wrapped route, I told her, so this method sounds pretty good to me.
She went on to say they also have a simple brine they use to make a smoked trout that's divine. Her favorite way to enjoy this?
"Slice of Granny Smith or Pink Lady apple, dab of horseradish, squirt of lemon and slice of smoked trout."
Contact writer Steven Keith at dailymailfood...@aol.com or 304-348-1721. You can also follow him on Facebook and Pinterest as "DailyMail FoodGuy," on Twitter as "DMFoodGuy" or read his blog at http://blogs.dailymail.com/foodguy.