I am a gravy drinker. WOW, that feels good to get off my chest. On my hips, maybe — but off my chest. I should probably be a little bit sorry, but I’m not. Remember in elementary school, how some of the kids who went on to peak in high school used to say, “Your mama’s so fat she thinks gravy is a beverage?” Well, that offended me. Not because my mama was fat or because I was. We weren’t, thanks. Not even because it is an empirically offensive thing to say. But because gravy is a beverage, and anyone who didn’t realize that should really have shut their gravy hole and stopped wasting my time.
I wasn’t that popular in high school.
I’m not saying that I would suck down a big-gulp size cup of gravy (or anything, for that matter) with a straw. But gravy is special. I usually like it more than the thing it’s poured on top of. So sometimes, especially now that I have a kitchen with doors that close to the rest of the house, I might skip the thing it’s supposed to be poured on and just sort of elegantly tip the spout of a personal-size gravy pitcher into my mouth. I figure it’s society’s problem that this isn’t considered an acceptable practice. Someday we’ll have a Constitutional amendment, and then our social and moral obligations will finally be aligned.
As you can see, gravy is important to me. That’s why I think you should trust me when I say that this vegetarian gravy (which you can make vegan, if you like) meets and even exceeds the standard for excellent gravy, period. It uses three different vegetable-based umami powerhouses — shiitake mushrooms, soy sauce, and marmite (trust me on this last one, you won’t taste it at all) — to make it every bit as savory and deeply delicious as a meat-based gravy.
You might think that the day after Thanksgiving is a strange time to post a recipe for gravy. And maybe it is. But let’s say you pitched in at your aunt’s house or wherever and took home your share of turkey (or not), stuffing, and mashed potato leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner. Probably you didn’t take any gravy. Even I would have been too shy in that situation to ask for a glass of gravy to take home on the plane or the train or the car. Well, why not whip up a quick batch of this lovely beverage…I mean proper topping for use sparingly as a sauce and sauce only? You could do it for the taste, or — you know — to fulfill your future Constitutional obligation. Whatever floats your gravy boat.
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- 8 cups good vegetable stock (or 7 cups stock and 1 cup good, dry white wine)
- 8 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1/2 cup butter (to make it vegan, substitute a good olive oil or Earth Balance)
- 1 minced shallot, optional
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon Marmite
- Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- Pour the vegetable stock into a medium pot and drop in the shiitakes. Bring stock to a boil over high heat, then remove from heat and let mushrooms steep for 30 minutes. Pour stock and mushrooms into large spouted measuring cup or bowl, and wipe out the pot with a paper towel.
- Add the butter to the empty pot and melt over medium-high heat. If using the shallot, add and cook for a minute or so, whisking once or twice. Add the flour and cook, whisking, until it turns very lightly golden, about two minutes. Pour in the stock with the mushrooms in a stream, whisking the whole time. Add soy sauce, marmite, and a few grinds of pepper.
- Bring stock back to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until gravy is reduced by almost half, about 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and additional pepper if desired. Remove mushrooms before serving.