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Good gravy!

There seem to be so many pitfalls to making smooth, robust gravy that many of us have turned to store-bought versions.

Making gravy isn't particularly hard, but, like roasting a turkey, we don't get much practice at it.

Gravy from scratch is made flavorful by the drippings from the turkey roasting pan. There are usually bits of meat that have fallen into the pan, which add flavor to gravy. There is also a lot of grease that needs to be removed.

Cheri Sicard, editor of Fabulousfoods.com, an online cooking magazine, has some easy-to-follow instructions for making gravy. First, put the cooked turkey on a platter and remove the rack from the pan. Strain the drippings into a bowl through a sieve. Add 1 cup of stock to the roasting pan and heat on the stovetop, stirring to loosen any bits. Pour the deglazed liquid into the bowl with the other drippings.

After the liquid stands for a few minutes, the fat will rise to the top. Skim and discard all but about 3 to 4 tablespoons.

Over medium heat, spoon the reserved fat into a 2-quart or larger saucepan. Whisk an equal amount of flour into the heated fat and continue to cook and stir until the flour turns golden. The flour mixture is what will thicken the gravy.

To produce a full-flavored gravy, Sicard writes, it is critical to cook the flour in about an equal portion of fat until the flour has lost its raw taste.

Gradually whisk in warm poultry drippings. Cook and stir until gravy boils and is slightly thick. Remember, the gravy will continue to thicken after it has been removed from the heat. A good rule is to use between 1 and 2 tablespoons of flour for each cup of liquid and then give the mixture time to thicken, according to Sicard.

Fabulousfoods.com lists several common gravy problems and ways to eliminate them.

+ Gravy is lumpy. With a whisk rotary beater, beat the gravy until smooth. If all other attempts fail, use a food processor, strainer or blender. Reheat, stirring constantly. Serve.

+ Gravy is too salty. If the oversalting is slight, add several raw potato slices and cook until the potato slices are translucent. Remove and discard the potato before serving. If the oversalting is severe, the gravy can only be repaired by increasing the quantity. Prepare another batch, omitting salt. Blend the two together.

+ Gravy is too light in color. Add { teaspoon of instant coffee.

+ Gravy is not thick. If time permits, allow the gravy to continue to simmer on the stovetop, and some of the liquid will evaporate. If time does not allow, mix the following thickening agents as indicated: Blend 1 teaspoon of cornstarch per cup of liquid in cold water. Stir until dissolved, then mix into gravy. Continue to cook and stir to eliminate the cornstarch flavor. Or make a thin paste of flour and cold water, stir into gravy and continue to cook to eliminate the raw flour flavor.

+ Gravy is too thick. Slowly whisk in more broth until the desired thickness is achieved.

+ Gravy is greasy or fatty. For an immediate fix, the fat can be skimmed off the top or soaked up with a fresh bread slice. If more time allows, chill the gravy, skim off the fat and reheat the gravy until it bubbles.

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