Welcome to Romeo's Food Lady! This blog contains recipes for delicious vegetarian food. Most of these are not recipes authored by me. Rather, this is just a compilation of great veggie food I've found from all over the place, usually tweaked just a little. It's intended to be a reference FOR ME so I don't lose great food I've found nor the changes I've made to suit my tastes, but I'm happy for you to use it, too. After more than 25 years of being a vegetarian, I know what tastes good.
Romeo's Food Lady is named after my friend and cat, Romeo. Romeo is not a vegetarian, but his Food Lady is!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Gravy Two Ways

Making gravy can be a mystery, even for experienced cooks. My mom once gave me the advice that if you find a method that pretty much works for you, just stick with it. There are many stories about gravy that could be cut with a knife from when she and my dad first got married over 40 years ago. Today, she's an expert at making gravy, but I only really got the hang of it a few years ago. I'm going to give you some general guidelines here, but know that the amounts of everything are sort of guesswork, and you wing it as you go. You have to get a feel for it, and that takes a little practice.

The first gravy recipe is what we in the South call "milk gravy", and it's served on biscuits (recipe here) for breakfast or for that hallowed Southern tradition "breakfast for dinner". I keep the "milk" part to a minimum, but I have to admit I never have found a good vegan substitute for at least a little milk in this gravy. Soy milk gives it a distinctive taste that is not great, and rice milk and almond milk are too sweet. Vegans, take heart, though! The 2nd way of making gravy, below, is vegan.

all-purpose flour
salt and freshly ground pepper
canola oil
1 T. powedered/dried goat's milk mixed with 1 c. water. (I use Meyenberg brand, and I get it at Whole Foods. I like dried goat's milk, because I don't use much milk and this allows me to keep it for a long time. You can use "regular" goat's or cow's milk - although goat's milk irritates the sinuses less - but if you're trying to minimize dairy, like me, dilute it by combining 1/4 c. milk with 3/4 c. water.)

This will approximately describe portions to serve 2 - 3 people, but you can multiply it out as needed. In a medium-sized skillet, put in about 1/3 c. - 1/2 c. flour plus a generous amount of salt and pepper. Let's say 1/2 t. salt, but you may have to add more at the end if it tastes too bland. Sorry, but milk gravy is salty. Now, shake the pan so that the flour spreads out across the bottom of the skillet and put it over medium heat. At this point, you want to toast it until you start to smell it and the edges of the flour mass start to brown. You want to get to this point, but no further (so keep an eye on it) before you:

Add just enough canola oil so that, when mixed with a fork, everything is just barely wet enough to bubble over the heat. Don't add too much oil, but it shouldn't be too dry to bubble. It'll make more sense when you're doing it. Use a fork to make sure everything is well-mixed, because failure to do so will result in lumpy gravy. From this point forward, use the fork to eliminate lumps. It is your mission.
Now take your goat's milk/water mixture and pour about 1/4 c. into the pan.  It will sizzle and get soaked up by the roux almost immediately.  Constantly use your fork to mash the more solid pieces into the milk/water to incorporate the liquid and keep the gravy from being lumpy.  When the milk is completely incorporated, which will happen fast, do another 1/4 c.  Repeat until all the milk/water mixture is thoroughly mixed into the roux, and keep your fork moving.  Now you'll have something that looks like super thick gravy.

Keep adding water (no milk now) in small increments and using the ever-moving fork to combine and avoid lumps until you have gravy that is the consistency you want.  If you accidentally get it too thin, keep it boiling until some of the water boils off, and it will be fine.  Remember, too, that once the gravy cools slightly, it will be a little thicker.

Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.  Now you're ready to pour it over your biscuits and have a great Southern breakfast dish!

The second gravy recipe comes from The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook, which I have had for many years and still love.  They call it "Golden Gravy", because it has nutritional yeast in it.  Nutritional yeast, according to the cookbook, has good quality proteins and B vitamins, which are so important in vegan diets.  This gravy is completely vegan and would generally be used over mashed potatoes (see a recipe, here) or in a vegan pot pie, which I'll give you the recipe for later.  This one has more definite measurements and concise instructions, so inexperienced cooks will be more comfortable with this one.  The method, though, will be very similar to above.  If you can master this gravy, you can master the previous one!

1/3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
1/3 c. nutritional yeast flakes (Note that nutritional yeast comes in POWDER and in FLAKES.  Use FLAKES in this recipe.)
1/4 c. canola oil or vegan margarine
2 c. water
1 T. soy sauce (or tamari or shoyu)

Add the flour, salt, and pepper to a medium skillet and shake the skillet so that the flour spreads across the surface.  Toast it over medium-low heat until you can start to smell it and the edges are just barely starting to brown.  Stir in the yeast, then add the oil.  Cook until bubbly.  Add 1/2 c. water, and stir into the roux with a fork to eliminate all lumps.  Repeat in 1/2 c. increments until the water is fully incorporated.  Add the soy sauce, taste, and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

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