It’s All Gravy: Two LA Chefs Share Their Recipes for Thanksgiving’s Staple Sauce

Brandon Kida of Gunsmoke and Chris Ono of Hansei show us how to emulate their own versions of the most versatile item on the table

November 21, 2022 7:02 am
Gravy is pretty much the only sauce that's served in a boat.
Gravy is pretty much the only sauce that's served in a boat.

Of all the foods that have found their way into common English phrases and idioms over the centuries, there is perhaps no grub that has become more cooked into the popular lexicon than one that will likely be riding the culinary seas of your secretly sexy Thanksgiving table in its eponymous boat: gravy.

An individual can “stew in their own gravy,” board or ride “the gravy train,” have “gravy on their grits” or simply be pleased that “the rest is gravy.” There’s also “Good Gravy!” and, of course, “It’s all gravy.”

The etymology of gravy’s various usages appears fairly complicated even though the savory sauce itself is somewhat simple and usually consists of what essentially boils down to turkey drippings, water, starch and some seaonsings. Usually, that is — but not in the homes of Japanese American chefs Chris Ono and Brandon Kida, both of whom have new restaurants in Los Angeles.

For Kida, who heads up Gunsmoke, a gravy recipe featuring shiItake mushrooms as the star of the show is a family tradition he grew up watching his mother make for Thanksgiving and over the holidays. On Thanksgivings spent away from home, the rich, umami-heavy sauce was also a homesickness remedy.

“I lived outside of California for more than a decade and often worked Thanksgiving, which meant I rarely had the chance to celebrate the holiday with my family,” Kida tells InsideHook. “I always made sure that my Thanksgiving menu included my mom’s shiitake gravy. Preparing it always brought back great memories. You’ve got to have it at Thanksgiving. What are mashed potatoes without gravy?”

For Ono, who runs Hansei, gravy is also a family affair that reflects both sides of his dual cultural identity as a fourth-generation American. “Post-internment camps,  Japanese Americans integrated Japanese ingredients into traditional American recipes,” he tells InsideHook. “It speaks to both sides of my family’s cravings. We’ve always had gravy at home, as a family. “

For his gravy, the most prevalent Japanese ingredient Ono uses is dashi broth, which adds more depth and smokiness than a traditional vegetable or chicken base. As for the drippings, it’s dealer’s choice.

“Pan drippings are key and I’ll take all of them: beef, chicken pork and turkey obviously,” Ono says. “The seasoning is a little different as I have soy and shichimi spice, but other than that it’s a very traditional American gravy for our house and culture. You can use this gravy for dinners long after the holidays for a splash of flavor to any dish.”

Here’s how to make both recipes for your Thanksgiving table — they’re both “gravy.”

Brandon Kida's Mom's Shiitake Mushroom Gravy

Total Time: 2 hours

Servings: Serves 10-12

  • 1 gallon turkey stock
  • 5 turkey bones
  • 4 onions ¼’ diced
  • 4 carrots peeled and 1” cut
  • 4 stalks celery 1” cut
  • 4 clove garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1 tbsp. soy
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ¼ cup cream
  • 6 tbsp. butter (high-quality finishing butter)
  • 10 shiItake mushrooms
    1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Place turkey bones on a roasting rack. Roast bones till golden brown.

    2. While bones are roasting, heat canola oil on medium-to-high heat in a large rondeau.

    3. Sautee mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery), rosemary, thyme, garlic and salt and pepper till golden and rawness has been cooked out. After the mirepoix is golden, deglaze with white wine and reduce.

    4. Add the turkey stock, turkey bones and soy. Reduce on low heat until it is 50% of the original volume. Check seasoning and add cream. Simmer for 5 minutes. Check seasoning again.

    5. Remove from heat and add butter and sliced shiitake mushrooms. Mix till emulsified and the mushrooms have wilted. Keep warm but do not boil.

    6. If you are making ahead of time, chill gravy in an ice bath till 38 degrees or less.

Chris Ono's Ono Gravy

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Servings: Can serve 8-10

  • 3 cup dashi broth (warm)
  • 2 cup pan meat drippings
  • 4 tbsp. butter (cubed)
  • 4 tbsp. flour
  • 1 tbsp. cold butter
  • Soy sauce to taste
  • Shichimi pepper to taste
    1. In a medium-sized pot, melt butter until frothy. 

    2. Add flour and stir to incorporate.

    3. Cook the roux until golden brown, approx 10 minutes.

    4. While cooking roux, add dashi and pan drippings to another pot and heat until hot.

    5. Add hot broth to roux and whisk continuously until gravy is smooth.

    6. Add cold butter for sheen.

    7. Season with soy sauce and shichimi pepper to taste.


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