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.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Potato-less Gratin

Sometimes you try something and it fails. This is one of those times.

I saw this recipe in the French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook called Pumkpin and Apple Gratin.  We had some orchard apples left at the time and plenty of butternut (which is allowable as a pumpkin substitute in said recipe, and I thought, "Heck, why not?"

Famous last words.

I did the recipe fairly as presented. Which is as follows:

Pumpkin and Apple Gratin
-serves 4 to 6-
2 T unsalted butter (plus some for dish)
2 lbs pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-in pieces
3 baking apples (I used golden delicious)
1 T lemon juice
salt and pepper
3/4 c creme fraiche (or greek yogurt)
pinch cinnamon
1 med onion, chopped
1 T chopped walnuts
3/4 c feta, crumbled
1 t thyme

1. Butter 9x13 baking dishand add sliced pumpkin and apples. To slice my pumpkin, I brought in my handy pseudo house husband assistant. I handled the apples all my own. Sprinkle with lemon juice, dot with 1 T butter, and season. Place in the oven for 20 minutes.

2. In med. bowl, combine yogurt and cinnamon. Melt 1 T butter in pan over med. heat. Add onion. Saute until soft, 3 min. Remove and stir in walnuts, feta, and thyme. Add onion to yogurt and stir. Pour over pumpkin and apples and return to oven.

3. Cook until veggies are tender and top golden, 20-30 minutes.

I'm not sure if French women get fat or not, but I know this, they aren't if they eat this side dish. Not only did it taste like gym shoes smell and look like vomit, but a half hour after consuming my gratin dinner, I was physically ill for the rest of the night, though if you were going for a nice, thorough bowel cleanse, by all means, this is the recipe for you.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The sauce! The sauce!

Still, I am horribly behind on recipes. Every time I think I've caught up, there's another card added to the stack. In current events, the boys and I have decided to do cultural food months. November was Mexican month, as Garet will try anything as long as you tell him it's Mexican. You see, he's part Mexican and he's very into genealogical awareness.December was supposed to be Canadian month, but alas, Canada's eat pretty much the same things we do (with the exception of Poutine and Caribou). Thus, December is North American month, so we can experiment with southern dishes, for lack of Caribou. Obviously, not every day will be a culinary experiment in the region of choice, but we try to do it at least one or twice a week. Last month went really well and I have high hopes for this month.

Coincidentally, I am behind enough on the blog that I haven't shared any of November's Mexican masterpieces. Next week marks the beginning of winter break, though. As a matter of fact, today is my last day at the internship, which is a sad yet happy revelation. Soon, I will be allowed the option to sleep in, at least for a little bit. And by sleep in, I mean remain in bed until about 8, when the kid will insist I get up regardless. That being said, I will be trying to submit almost daily contributions to the blog to get it more up to date with what's happening in my kitchen. The excitement is mounting.

Until then, least's go back to the beginning of the recipe stack, to august, when the tomatoes were reading high and red on their vines. In fact, this little recipe goes hand in hand with my eggplant meatball fetish, because what does better with meatballs than a pot of homemade spaghetti sauce. This recipe comes to us from one of my favorite author's, and the very one who brought you the pizza dough I am so fond of using... Barbara Kingsolver, as found in her book "Animal Vegetable Miracle." Here it is, the Kate-ified version.

(pictured here with eggplant parm)

Spaghetti Sauce a la Kingsolver
(This is not a canning recipe)

10c. tomatoes
1 12 oz. can roasted red pepper with garlic (clearanced at Aldi!)
3 small peppers
1 onion
1/4 c. basil
1/8 c. honey
1 T oregano
about 1 T salt
1/2 T thyme
1/2 T garlic powder
1/2 T parsley
1/2t pepper (I used 1/2 cayenne)
1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 t nutmeg

1. Peal tomato skins off. You could find a quick and easy way of doing this, or you could sit there for a very long time stripping raw tomatoes, as I did. If you use closet-ripened tomatoes, as one batch I did was, you may want to add a few canned tomatoes to the mix to achieve a normal looking red hue to the sauce. There's a chance, otherwise, that it will come out orange. Then, put the tomato and the red peppers into a blender and puree.

2. In large pot, cook diced onion and peppers to soft. You could dice the onion yourself, or make your pseudo house husband do it, that is, if you too have one.

3.Add puree tomato/red pepper mix to pot, along with basil, honey, oregano, salt, thyme, garlic powder, parsley, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

4. Boil and then turn head down to simmer. simmer 2-3 hours, until sauce has reached desired consistency. Freeze in containers if desired.

So here it is, after so much waiting, a delicious homemade sauce that canned sauce can only wish it was. Goes very well with eggplant meatballs.