This has been a ridiculous week. Stress at work; stress in my personal life. As I often jokingly say, I’m about ready to run off and join the circus. And then I realize that my life is a circus. And I have no place to go.
Except to the kitchen to cook.
I haven’t come across very many recipes this week that I’d like to try this weekend. I didn’t do much grocery shopping last weekend, and I didn’t cook much, so this week was full of Chinese take-out from Kowloons, sandwiches from Quiznos, and pizza from Papa John’s. And cheap wine from the gas station down the street (Don’t judge me. I said it was a rough week).
A few recipe notes:
I love gravy. Gravy is one of the first things my mom actually lovingly taught me how to make. Most of my cooking skills were born of necessity, so gravy has always meant love and comfort to me because my mom took the time to teach me how to make it. Never one to say I love you–or to even show love, pride, appreciation, or anything like that, my mom was always proud of my gravy making abilities. Never a lump. Never the chalkiness of raw flour. Perfectly seasoned. I had that shit down.
But, now I’m a vegetarian. Or, rather, a vegetarian who has recently succumbed to the siren’s call of a cheeseburger (or two). Stress eating meat. But, I digress. That’s definitely a topic for a different post.
Where was I? Oh, yes. Can vegetarians make good gravy? Gravy that rivals the richness and umami that meat drippings impart? I’ve made a lot of vegetarian gravy over the past year. The key to good vegetarian gravy is patience, care, and caramelized onions and mushrooms.
Many recipes call for nutritional yeast (called nooch by many vegetarians), soy sauce, or wine.
I don’t use those things because I want the gravy to taste like the gravy of my childhood and never, in a million years, would my hillbilly family ever consider putting white wine or soy sauce in gravy–and I’m certain that they have no idea what nutritional yeast even is.
So, I do what I was taught to do. Be patient and kind to the gravy. The onions and mushrooms become the backbone to the gravy–if cooked correctly, you don’t miss the meat drippings.
Caramelize. Cook the roux just so. Alternate carefully: a pour of liquid, vigourous stirring until the liquid incorporates into the roux, another pour of liquid, back and forth–back and forth until gravy emerges from the dance of roux, milk, onions, and mushrooms in your pan.
Some recipes say add all of your liquid to the roux at once and stir vigourously. In order for that to work and to keep your gravy lump-free, your pan needs to be pretty hot. And if it’s not…or if you stop stirring, your gravy is ruined. It’s hard to de-lump gravy.
Slowly adding the liquid until it completely incorporates into the roux before adding more gives you an insurance policy against lumpy gravy.
Hmm. I need to hunt down some recipes for my cooking marathon this weekend. All this talk of perfect gravy isn’t going to cut it. Woman cannot live on gravy alone.