Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Basic Brown Gravy

To my way of thinking, there are two "basic" gravies; White (or country) Gravy and Brown Gravy. Then there are forty-eleven-billion variations on a theme.
Learn to do these two first though, and do them well; Then you can change an ingredient here or there and make just about ANYTHING!!

A Brown gravy that has that rich, homemade, "simmered-for-hours" flavor takes a little practice, paying attention to details and being sure you're using the best tasting ingredients for the recipe - but it's NOT DIFFICULT, I promise.

I am leaving a lot of that "taste" factor up to you, because you know what works for your kitchen, ingredients you have available, your taste preferences, your kids taste and texture preferences, and your life!!

So we've tackled the basic White Gravy.
Read on, for my take on Brown Gravy.

One of the secrets to good brown vegan gravy is finding a stock or bullion that's not overly salty, and has a flavor you really like. Because that's what your gravy is going to taste like.

Sometimes I make my own broth, and that's definitely good! But I'm perfectly willing to admit that I "cheat" and use the packaged stuff for convenience and consistency too.
So. Make your own (I'll be posting recipes for that later) or check out your regular grocery store, health-food store, online, whatever is available to you; Read labels, buy stuff, try it, taste it, cook with it, until you find the vegetable-based broth or bullion or stock base that gives the best flavor in your gravy.
You may have to experiment a little at first, or actually combine several to get exactly what you're looking for - but that's OK, do what YOU like!

I don't like to suggest too many brand-names, because each person's tastes are different, but I know 4764784848 of you are going to ask anyway, and that's OK :), I'll mention some that I like, and are available around here, so they're what I use, if I don't make my own (more on that later): Bill's Best"Beaf", Better Than Bullion "No Beef" Base, and Imagine Foods "Beef-Style" Vegetarian Broth. If these are too salty, feel free to water them down. If they're too bland, jazz them up with red wine, garlic, herbs, a teaspoon of tomato paste, onion, mushrooms, whatever...

Brown gravy seems to be better interpreted in the vegan restaurants I've visited, though it still ends up a bit on the bland side at times; maybe most people like it that way, who knows.
PLEASE, don't be afraid to add herbs, seasonings, whatever YOU like!! (A tip: If you find something you like but still feel it isn't "rich" enough, try adding a little concentrated yeast extract like Marmite or Vegemite or even soy sauce as a last resort.)

The following recipe is a slightly tweaked version of one I've posted before; another one of those "basics" I use often.
It IS a little more involved, time-wise, than the White Gravy, but still simple enough.
And the results are well worth it. This is a very flavorful "Brown Gravy", the comfort-food stuff my family likes best on mashed potatoes or with meatballs, a lentil loaf, nut burgers or seitan/gluten.

Rich, Brown Gravy
  • 28 oz. Vegetarian "beef" or vegetable broth (I usually use "Imagine Foods" in the aseptic box, but you can make your own from scratch, from bullion and water, or do whatever you want to get the flavor you want, just have 28 oz. of brown, flavored, brothy-type liquid to start out with.)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped celery
  • 2 Tbs. red wine (the alcohol cooks off, or just use apple cider or more broth)
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. sage (1 Tbsp. chopped fresh is awesome here if you have it)
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. Earth Balance or other margarine
  • 2 T. all-purpose flour
STEP 1. Combine first 8* ingredients in a medium saucepan.
*NOTE: For even richer flavor, brown the mushrooms and onions in a pan with a little oil first, THEN add to saucepan and continue. The browning step is not necessary but definitely amps up the flavor!!

Bring to a boil; cook at a low-to-medium boil for about 15 minutes or until liquid is reduced to about 2 cups (I just eyeball it, it needs to reduce somewhat, but isn't a huge deal if it's a little more or less)

STEP 2. Strain broth mixture through a sieve into a bowl; press vegetables to get all the juice out and then discard solids. (I know, I know!! This step sounds sounds wasteful, but it results in a nice silky-smooth gravy - if you want chunky vegetable gravy just skip the 'straining' step and chop the vegetables finer, or puree - Alternately, you can save the cooked veggies and add them to a loaf or patties).

STEP 3. While broth cools a bit, melt margarine in large cast iron skillet; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add flour, and mix to make a paste
Cook 2 minutes or until a bit browned or tannish, stirring constantly (This is your thickener or "roux"). Don't let it get any browner!
Take off heat and allow to cool a bit.

STEP 4. While off the heat, SLOWLY add 1/4 cup broth mixture to roux, little by little; stirring well with a whisk. Slowly add in remaining broth mixture, still stirring well with a whisk.

STEP 5. Turn heat back on to medium-high.
Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer (just barely bubbling) for 3 + minutes, or until thick, stirring (with a whisk) constantly. I can't emphasize the stirring part enough. Gravy takes attention, so don't try it the first few times when you have toddlers, kittens and gerbils running amuk in your kitchen. Not that I would know, just sayin'....

Adjust seasonings to taste (more salt or pepper maybe, sage, Marmite, onion powder, a drop of lemon juice - a bit of any of these will definitely brighten the flavor.)

Serve with potatoes, noodles, dumplings, meatballs, over toast, straight from the pot with a spoon, whatever... YUM.

What brand of packaged, vegetarian broth/stock/bullion do YOU use?


MeShell said...

That gravy pic looks great! I'm really looking forward to Thanksgiving so I can have an excuse to make lots of gravy.

I usually try to have GoBio's Herb bullion in the house, just in case. But I've gotten into making my own broth and freezing it for later!


Wow, that gravy looks so rich and delicious! I will have to make a batch and bring it to Thanksgiving dinner this year. Though I don't eat the turkey, I know the gravy is made with its juices and that bothers me.

I cheat too and use pre-made broth most of the time. I used to use the powdered chicken-flavored veggie broth from the bulk bin at Whole Foods (can't remember the brand), but now I just stick with O Organics Vegetable Broth. I will have to try some of your more "beefy" suggestions though!

Sophia said...

Yummy! Looks very tasty! Nice and rich! I usually use GioBio organics bouillon cubes, or Mcormicks no meat vegetable broth.

Happy Vegan Mofo!


Maggie Muggins said...

That gravy looks great. This post is perfect timing with Thanksgiving coming up this weekend. I've been trying to find a good gravy to go with my seitan roast.

Dawn said...

Marti, I love your gravy-loving brain! A gravy a day for MoFo is nothing short of genius.

This gravy looks wonderful and like it'd go well with a ton of things. Can't wait to try it out.

And my favorite broth brand is plain ol' Trader Joe's low sodium broth! Cheap, effective and tasty.