WHEN I became a vegetarian, I didn’t miss meat at all. The things I missed, and craved, were all the good stuff that went along with it, like gravy. I began to search high and low for the perfect gravy recipe, wondering if I would ever be able to recreate such a fantastic food. But I wasn’t having success.
I kept trying every recipe I could find, recipes with cream of mushroom soup, cream cheese, nutritional yeast, and strange ingredients that I wasn’t even sure were vegetarian. I got in deep, and nothing was tasting good. Finally, I made myself stop and think about what I was doing wrong, and a lightbulb turned on.
AT ITS most basic level, all gravy is, really, are the juices and drippings from roasted meat (broth) that have been seasoned and thickened, usually with either flour or cornstarch. When I made myself think about this, I started to realise I was making gravy way too complicated.
Essentially then, in a formulaic sense, gravy would look something like this:
broth + seasonings + thickening agent = gravy
Using this formula, it would make sense that if you want a great tasting gravy, you have to start with a great tasting broth.
This is definitely where your individual taste comes into play. I had to try a LOT of different broths before I found one that I loved. What I found was that most of the liquid vegetable broths you can buy at the store taste very sweet, whereas most of the bouillon tasted too salty and had a bitter celery flavor. But like I said, everybody’s tastes are different, so my best advice would be to just try as many different brands and varieties as you can.
I also tried making my own stock, which was just okay. It still came out sweeter than I wanted, (I’m guessing because of the carrots?) so I kept trying different bouillons until I came across Knorr Cubes. For me, this was exactly the flavor that I was going for. They are really nicely seasoned without being bitter or sweet.
I make the stock at 1.5 times the concentration, because the flour I use to thicken the gravy will dilute it some.
THE NEXT step of the equation would be seasonings. Again, this is going to vary depending on what flavor you are trying to achieve. Beef gravies tend to be richer, with lots of cracked black pepper, whereas poultry gravies tend to be milder with savoury herbs like sage and thyme. I also like to add paprika because it lends a nice depth, color, and earthy flavor.
LAST COMES the thickening agent. I prefer flour over cornstarch because I think it makes a nicer flavor and texture, but also because unless you use organic cornstarch, it’s probably genetically modified (GMO). Mix the flour or cornstarch with a little bit of water to make a paste, stirring until there are no lumps left, and then add a little more water until it becomes pourable. Pour the mixture into your seasoned broth and bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a wire whisk until thickened.
THE GOAL of this post wasn’t really to give you recipes to follow, but to show you how to approach creating your own gravy to suit your own taste. But that being said, here’s the basic recipe that I follow:
Basic vegetarian gravy recipe:
- 2 C water
- 1.5 cubes (1 Knorr cube is enough for 2 C water- check the instructions on your bouillon first!)
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp ground dried rosemary
- 1/4 C flour
You could also just use 2 cups of stock, but be sure the flavor is concentrated enough. If it’s not, start out with more than the 2 cups and simmer until the flavor is right.
Bring water to a boil, add bouillon cubes, stir till dissolved. Add seasonings.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour with a little bit of water to make a paste, stirring until there are no lumps left, and then add a little more water until it becomes pourable. Pour the mixture into your seasoned broth and bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a wire whisk until thickened. You may not have to use the entire amount of flour mixture, so add it slowly.
- Caramelized Onion Gravy (omnomnomivorous.wordpress.com)