Spare a thought for the vegetarians and vegans who will observe Thanksgiving this week. It ain’t called Turkey Day for nuthin’, and despite the grotesque amounts of food on many tables, there may not actually be much for v-people. Vegetarians have a somewhat easier time of it, but vegans will probably look around to see if there’s anything other than cranberry sauce they can eat. A few years ago my nephew became a vegan, and since I’m the Thanksgiving cook it fell to me to figure out how to make a dinner delicious enough that omnivores would never notice the missing dairy and eggs, not to mention chicken and turkey broth.
Some dishes were easier than others to adjust. It was simple enough to use vegan margarine or olive oil in place of butter. Soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk substituted for dairy milk. Vegetable broth filled in for meat-based stock. So we had delicious dressing, mashed potatoes, and vegetable dishes (along with the cranberry sauce). My nephew brought tofurky to dinner, and folks, it tastes good. It isn’t turkey – you aren’t going to say, “Hey – is this turkey or is it tofurky? I can’t tell the difference!” but it is pretty good. I’d rather not talk about the Godawful tofu pumpkin pie.
But vegan gravy was a challenge. How do you capture the flavor of Thanksgiving without dairy or meat-based broth? It seems that earthy flavors – mushrooms, miso (fermented soybean paste), onions, wine, all heavy with umami tastes, are the key. A couple of years I made this Mushroom-Miso-Mustard gravy from Crescent Dragonwagon; though I had to tweak it a bit, it was pretty successful. I moved on to making a mushroom gravy from dried and fresh mushrooms and vegetable stock, which was good too.
This year my nephew has become a vegetarian instead of a vegan, which will make some things easier and better (the pumpkin pie, for one), but the gravy will remain vegan. I found this recipe for Miso Gravy from The Woodside Kitchen.
- 1/4 cup miso paste (for gluten-free gravy, be certain the miso is labeled gluten-free)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
In a blender or food processor combine all of the ingredients and puree.
This is white miso. I know it doesn’t look white, but that’s what it is.
It doesn’t look too promising. Hit that blender button!
Transfer to a saucepan and over low heat whisk gravy until it thickens and just comes to a simmer, without boiling.
It tasted very much like miso soup or a sauce you’d get in a Japanese restaurant. It wasn’t bad, but neither was it very exciting. My nephew is driving 220 miles to get to Thanksgiving. He deserves better gravy. This needs work!
I put about five dried mushrooms (I bought them in bulk at Napa Valley Olive Oil Company) in 1 cup of very hot water and let them sit for about 15 minutes.
I chopped about 2 tablespoons each onion, carrot, and celery, and sauteed them in 1 tablespoon olive oil under they were just starting to become tender.
Then I poured in the water the mushrooms had been soaking in and brought that to a boil, along with about 1/4 cup dry white vermouth.
Then I poured in the mushroom broth & sauteed vegetables.
Turned the heat to medium and whisked the broth & vegetables into the miso gravy.
OK. That’s better. That tastes like gravy.