Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mushroom Gravy (and the Poutine it inspired)

If there's one thing I miss as a vegetarian, it's gravy. And it's not because gravy tastes groovy or anything like that. Really, the reasoning is quite similar to why I could never give up ice cream: some foods equal comfort. And gravy is one of them. There's nothing that says "party time" quite like a heaping pile of whipping potatoes with a well in the middle that overflows with gravy. For the past few holiday season's, I have watched others' potatoes heaving and gravy strewn whilst mine went bare, but no more.

I have discovered mushroom gravy. And it tastes so good.

So it went like this: Garet decided that December should be Canadian month. But try as we might, all we could think of that we Canadian without also being American was Poutine, a strange french fry concoction I once say Anthony Bourdain eat in Quebec. We ended up expanding the fare to North American of course, but we did want to give this puppy a whirl.

The only problem: Bourdain's poutine consisted of fries fried in duck fat and covered in, among other toppings, gravy. So I consulted some cookbooks and discovered we veggies do have our own "gravies" just like we have an answer to every other meat-friendly entre (I'm ever fond of the smart dog as well on that front).

The fun thing about Poutine is it is a smorgabord a la fries, so while there are obviously some traditional toppings, anything goes. So for this one, we ended up cleaning out the fridge in the process as well, a splendid bonus. Art cooked up some chicken and gravy with greenbean casserole the night before, when I was at school. All that was left to do so make my end of the meal, the veggie gravy. The man was kind enough to grab a couple packages of white button mushrooms at the local grocer. It was all cake after that.

Mushroom Gravy
--Makes 2.5 c.--

2 c. water
1 c. chopped white mushrooms (I got white button on sale to boot)
3 T soy sauce
1 t thyme
salt and pepper
1 1/2 T cornstarch dissolved in 3 T water
1 t vegetarian browning liquid (such as Gravy Master)

1. In a small saucepan, combine water through thyme. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for three minutes to soften the mushrooms.

2. Transfer mixture to a blender and process to smooth. Return to saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Stir until sauce thickens or if you get impatient like me, add a few handfulls of flour one at a time while stirring until the gravy is of a gravy consistency. Stir in the browning liquid (I was less thrilled with my off brand but I get to thinking that vegetable Better than Boullion would get the job done and taste better. Try it if you wish. I know I will.)

3. Taste to adjust seasonings. Serve hot (in case this didn't seem obvious).

For the Poutine, I also stir fried up the rest of the mushrooms in the package with a little strawberry Balsamic, leaving them on long enough to start to carmelize.

As for the Poutine itself, there's no hard and fast recipe here. Just cut up some potatoes and put them on a cookie sheet in the oven on 350-400 for about 60 minutes (30 minutes and then flip for the last 30). Then go wild with the toppings and gravy. For the boys, the leftover chicken and gravy did just fine, though they, like me, opted for shredded cheese rather than the traditional cheese curd.  For myself:

A nice oven baked french fry base
carmelized mushrooms
leftover green bean casserole (reheated)
mushroom gravy
shredded cheese

It was a meal of comfort food topped with comfort food and then drenched in liquid comfort. A delight for the tastebuds and the stomach, with its meaty mushroom earthy meets carb standby favorite meets green bean... well... greenness. It might look a bit regurgitated, but until the potato-less gratin, it only looked unattractive. This is one of those adventures that I definitely want to repeat, and I did it all without duck fat.

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