Here in the U.S. where Thanksgiving Day is rapidly approaching, there are thousands and thousands of terrified novice cooks faced with the prospects of cooking their very first Thanksgiving dinner.
Maybe they should be terrified. After all, Thanksgiving dinner is a meal that is hard to do well, especially if you're an inexperienced cook. First of all, there is the trick to cooking a bird with two completely different types of meat without totally drying out the white meat. Then there are so many dishes that need the oven at the same time: turkey, rolls, pies, stuffing, cauliflower with cheese sauce, baked onions, and the list goes on depending on each family's traditional favorites. Then there is the great stuffing debate. Is store seasoned stuffing adequate, or do you have to make it from scratch?
The biggest Thanksgiving Dinner pitfall for inexperienced cooks may be gravy. It can be hard to get the flavor just right, since turkey doesn't usually leave enough juice in the pan for adequately flavored seasoned gravy. Don't even consider using that package that comes in the turkey, it's horrible. Then you have to make it at the very last minute, when everything else is getting cold. Gravy is enough to ruin your day if you're cooking Thanskgiving dinner for the first time.
Real gravy is an art. My friend Dr. Biggles over at Meathenge confesses that the reason he roasts meat and vegetables is to get the wonderful gravy that such a process produces. Possibly Biggles can roast a turkey and produce incredibly flavorful gravy without adding any flavor enhancers, but trust me on this, not many cooks can pull that off.
For you less experienced or insecure cooks out there, I'm going to give you a little tip that can completely transform your turkey gravy. Run to the store and get a bottle of Better Than Bouillon turkey base. Then add just a tiny, tiny bit of this to the juices that are left in the bottom of the roaster when you take the turkey out, add a little water, cook it for a few minutes, stir in a mixture of water and cornstarch, and you will have the best darn turkey gravy you ever made. BE CAREFUL NOT TO USE TOO MUCH. This stuff is potent. I would use only a teaspoon or two in several cups of gravy. It's also just a bit peppery tasting and contains salt, so I would recommend not adding salt or pepper to the gravy
Good luck to all you out there who are attempting your first Thanksgiving Dinner this year. Think of this experience as Creating Memories rather than an assessment of your cooking skills. And remember, everyone had to cook their first Thanksgiving Dinner sometime.
Better Than Bouillon gravy turkey base is made from turkey meat with natural juices, salt, Maltodestrin (from corn), chicken fat, autolized yeast extract, sugar, flavoring (onion powder, spices, and spice extractives), dried whey, modified food starch, and caramel color. The company makes a number of other similar products which are also excellent.