Monday, October 17, 2011

Southern Tomato Gravy

I'm dragging out my second World-War II inspired recipe. Basic, cheap, tasty food that many of our parents and grandparents ate (and survived on!). Tomato Gravy originated in the Southern United States and apparently was a favorite with Army cooks who often served it to troops when ingredients for "typical" gravy were scarce.

Tomato Gravy is milder and creamier than a garlic-y, herb-flavored Italian-type tomato sauce, but it's not exactly like brown gravy either. It's GOOD STUFF though, especially on breakfast-y stuff. Grits, scrambles, hashbrowns, biscuits.

If you've never had tomato gravy, it's just one more thing I highly recommend that you try.

I used to LOVE having this over at a friend's house, in high school. His Mom served it over toasty, buttered white bread (which I wasn't allowed at home - possibly why I loved this gravy so much!). She's the one who told me how her father had worked in an Army mess hall and fondly remembered this gravy being served on many occasions.
I didn't know people called it "Tomato Gravy" though, and spent years looking for a recipe for that "yummy tomato-sauce stuff". Thank goodness for the Internet, as I just re-discovered it a few years ago and have been inventing new uses (besides toasted Wonderbread) ever since!

It's also good on greens, pasta, gnocchi, "meat"loaf or (like any gravy) pretty much anything.

Southern Tomato Gravy

2 tablespoons margarine
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup soy milk or soy creamer (I prefer the creamer)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch cayenne
15-ounce can chopped or sliced, stewed tomatoes

Get out your cast iron skillet again. Heat the margarine or oil over medium heat. Stir in the flour with a whisk until it is lump free. Let simmer for a moment or two, to toast the flour just a little bit, and then remove from heat, and stir in the half cup milk, a little at a time.

Put back on the burner, stir and bring to a boil, it will thicken considerably, and very fast. You’ll be left with a very thick mixture. Remove from heat, add the sugar and seasonings, whisking continuously, then slowly add the juice from the tomatoes. Put back on heat and simmer (very gentle boil).

In a shallow bowl, smash the tomatoes with your fork or a potato masher to make them sort of choppy or shredded. This gravy is not smooth, so you don't have to work real hard at smashing them. The lumpy tomatoes are actually what give it the characteristic texture.

Once gravy has come to a good simmer, add the tomatoes.

Bring back to a medium simmer (but don't let it boil hard) and stir with whisk for 3 to 5 minutes until gravy thickens.

*(optional: several tablespoons of nutritional yeast, whisked in at the end, are particularly delicious if you like that sort of thing.)

**(optional: A couple shakes "Bacon Salt" or a drop or two of liquid smoke are really good here too, depending on if you want the "smoky" flavor; Southern Tomato Gravy is often, but not always, made with bacon drippings - blergh).

Serve over toast, biscuits, whatever.


Jennidy said...

My partner makes this stuff all the time! He's from the American South but I'm not, and I'd never heard of it before we got together. I love that stuff! He made some to go with dinner the other night and added a touch of balsamic...not something I imagine his mother doing, but it was nice.

saveyrgeneration said...

I've honestly never heard of tomato gravies before. It sounds delicious!

T said...

I've never heard of it before but it sounds great! Loving this theme.

inhergrace said...

This sounds delicious! Going to have to make it! :)