Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014: Your Most Basic, Cream-White-Country, Gravy Recipe

Biscuits and gravy. Breakfast of the gods.
Hold on to your saucepans. Heeeere we go. I'm blogging again, remember?
It's "Vegan Month of Food" (Vegan MoFo).
And in case you missed it, I'm blogging A MONTH OF VEGAN GRAVIES.
Because. Gravy.
Everything needs gravy.

Just the obligatory public service announcement reminder before we begin:
This will NOT be a low-salt, low-fat, high-fiber, gluten-free, soy-free, vegetable-and-vitamin-and antioxidant-filled month of recipes. If you're looking for those, there's a whole list of other vegan bloggers HERE. Though truth be told, gravy isn't as evil as you may have thought.

That out of the way, I'm going to jump right in with my personal favorite here:
Basic Cream Gravy, White Gravy or Country Gravy - also known as sawmill gravy, white gravy, milk gravy and sausage gravy (if you add sausage - obviously).

Over tofu and toast ^
This is the gravy most popular in the American South and is typically used on top of those meaty favorites (all of which can be veganized easily) like chicken-fried steak, grits and gravy, biscuits and gravy, "SOS", or eggs and gravy.
Basically milk, fat and flour cooked into creamy deliciousness. I think it goes on pretty much everything, but especially breakfast. See the pictures?
Comfort food at it's best.

EVERY time I have the good fortune to go to a vegan restaurant, I ALWAYS order gravy. Usually in a bowl. On the side. It's how I judge the restaurant. Sometimes it's good, sometimes not. Sometimes I feel like I need to make an instruction sheet to leave with my check (and these are tips home gravy cooks should remember as well...)
  • Too much flour, and your gravy will get thick and pasty.
  • Too little fat, and the flour will taste "raw" and the gravy will not thicken properly.
  • Not stirring constantly at certain points, may cause lumps, or scorching.
  • Not adding a bit of salt with the "milk" before cooking will make it bland, the salt needs to "cook in" to the gravy.

Country/White gravy has a very mild flavor which is enhanced by whatever you might add to it (like sausage, mushrooms, herbs, cracked pepper, etc) - I'm assuming by now you realize means that means VEGAN sausage, right? It's also the basis for many lovely sauces and dishes (stroganoff? pot-pie?) so once you've mastered it, you can easily make all sorts of things that will impress people. (Although seriously, a breakfast of biscuits and gravy will impress most ANYONE!)

Quoting Wikipedia:
More tofu scramble ^

"White gravy is essentially a b├ęchamel sauce with the roux (thickener - more on that later) being made of meat drippings and flour (Don't freak out, of course I'm going to make this vegan!!) Milk or cream is added (calm down) and thickened with the roux; once prepared, black pepper and bits of sausage or other meats are sometimes added."

So how in the world to make this cream-butter-milk stuff vegan?
I promise it's not hard - in fact, this month, I'm hoping to show y'all how EASY it is to make all kinds of gravies and sauces and related stuffs.
But White/Cream Gravy is one of the VERY easiest and most basic of gravies there is, which is why I'm starting with this recipe tonight. Only FOUR ingredients and you might have them in your pantry!
I'll post a slightly more involved recipe at a later date - one that uses cashews or almonds. Yum.
 - - If you've never made gravy, or had bad luck in the gravy-making area before, read my "NOTES", hopefully, they may prove helpful.

  • 1 1/2 T. vegan margarine of your choice
  • 1/4 cup flour
(NOTE: I prefer white flour here, makes a whiter and smoother gravy, but use what you prefer)
  • 2 cups unsweetened rice milk or oat milk
(NOTE: any other UNSWEETENED AND PLAIN non-dairy milks are fine, though rice or oat milk seem to give the most accurate taste without any other flavors coming through. MAKE SURE you are using PLAIN AND UNSWEETENED plant milk. Anything else will give your gravy a sweet or possibly "vanilla" taste. Not Good!)
  • dash of salt, sage and black pepper
Place iron skillet on medium-high heat for about one minute to heat it up. Add margarine and melt to cover bottom of skillet.
(NOTE: Any skillet will work, I just tend to like my cast iron one for this.) 

Whisk flour into the fat and cook over low heat for 1 minute.
(NOTEALWAYS use a balloon-shaped wire whisk for gravies. There is no substitute here, and you need the whisk to mix the fat and flour particles into the milk evenly.
Also - I do not brown the flour here (or make a roux), as it makes the gravy more brown or tan, I just stir it into the margarine, let it sizzle and bubble JUST a few seconds and then stir in milk.) 

Remove pan from heat and whisk in milk about 1/4 or so, at a time. Keep whisking until all milk is added.
Add 1/8 tsp (pinch) of salt at this point.
Return to medium-high heat and stir frequently but not constantly, while the gravy comes to a simmer (bubbles form and break, but not boiling violently) and thickens.

Once it's starting to bubble, stir continuously, working lumps to the side and bottom of the skillet until few or no lumps remain and gravy thickens.
This stirring and thickening is important to cook the flour into the gravy, so the gravy doesn't taste like raw flour.
When it's thickened and simmered for a few minutes, turn off heat.
Taste and add just a shake or two more of salt, rubbed sage (dry) and pepper to taste.
(NOTE: The seasoning part is up to your individual preference. Usually I add a little more salt, or sometimes a few drops of hot sauce, but that's all.)
That's it!!!!!

Yes. Gravy over waffles!
It's a thing.
At this point, you can serve the gravy as is, or think of it as a basic canvas to create a masterpiece: add cooked, crumbled "sausage" (any vegan variety of your choice will do) beans, mushrooms, or any cubed veggie or veggie-meat that you like, anything's good with gravy. (Have I emphasized the enough? Seriously. Anything!)
We'll talk about some variations later on...

Try it over biscuits, toast, grits, breaded-fried seitan cutlets, nut burgers, savory waffles, lentil loaf, "chicken-fried-tofu" or whatever....Drink it straight from the pan! (OK, my children really DO that, but I suggest putting it OVER other yummy foods!)

Happy Gravy-making!


Susan said...

You are the master of gravy!

Sal said...

Yum yum! I've had biscuits and gravy once, when I was in the states (it's not really a thing here in the UK) but I keep meaning to try and recreate it because it was rad. I'll have to try your recipe! :)

Anonymous said...

I love your MoFo theme! I hope you do some Thanksgiving gravies, that's something that I haven't mastered yet.

Panda With Cookie said...

I love your months of gravy.

Anonymous said...

That's a handy tip re: unsweetened rice and oat milk for bechamel sauce. I've often wondered what the best sub for dairy milk in savoury sauces is as although I usually use soya milk for general use, I find I'm not keen on it in savoury stuff.