Sauce expert Susan Volland believes that “gravy should be available to all who crave it.” In her recently published book, Mastering Sauces: The Home Cook’s Guide to New Techniques for Fresh Flavors, she, therefore, includes a vegan variation on classic gravy that works for most specialty diets.
The key is roasting and caramelizing your onions and garlic to give it sweetness and an added dimension of umami flavor. Keep in mind that the longer (darker) you cook your onions, the sweeter your sauce will be. Her Savory Meatless Gravy thickened with Roasted Onion & Garlic Purée also calls for Marmite, an English yeast concentrate that will enhance the umami flavor of your gravy. It has a very strong savory, salty flavor, almost like meat glacé. Although not gluten-free, this vegetarian ingredient will give your gravy that meaty depth of flavor and a darker color.
For non-vegans and/or vegetarians, this gravy can also be made with a beef or turkey stock.
Savory Meatless (Vegan) Gravy Thickened with Roasted Onion & Garlic Purée
Yield: 2 cups
2 cups Rich & Savory Meatless Vegan Brown Stock, heated (recipe below)
1 head garlic
1 large yellow onion, cut into 8 wedges
1 tbsp vegetable oil
½ teaspoon Marmite (optional)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
To Prepare: Cut the top off your head of garlic to expose the tops of the cloves. Toss the onion wedges and garlic with oil to coat. Place the onion and garlic in a small baking dish or loaf pan and roast for 40 minutes, or until the onion pieces are soft and dark brown on the edges. Cool until you can comfortably handle the head of garlic. Next, scoop the roasted onions into a blender or food processor. Squeeze the softened garlic cloves out of their skins and add to the onions. Purée until smooth.
Gradually blend in the warm stock until the gravy reaches desired consistency. A thicker sauce will hold together better than a very thin sauce. Press the sauce through a sieve if there are any unappealing lumps, or the texture is coarse. Season well with the salt and pepper. Serve warm.
Storage: If storing, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Note: This gravy tends to separate, with the solids sinking to the bottom, so just give it a stir before you pass the gravy boat. The solids will also settle if chilled, so simply whisk it again as you reheat.
Rich & Savory Meatless (Vegan) Brown Stock
Yield: 4 cups
This recipe builds layers of flavor from browned root vegetables, dried mushrooms and roasted barley. Only half of the onions are roasted to prevent the finished stock from being too sweet. The stock si brightened with wine and herbs and then finished with umami-rich Marmite to mimic meaty flavors. It makes a marvelous soup broth and gravy base and can even be reduced into a remarkably intense savory vegetarian syrup.
Roasted barley is sold as tea in Korean markets. It adds a toasted, smoky taste. Marmite is a concentrated yeast paste from England that can be found in the spice or condiment aisle of a good supermarket or specialty store. To make the gluten-free version of this stock, substitute roasted corn for the barley and omit the Marmite.
8 cups cold water
2 tbsp vegetable oil or light olive oil
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 medium yellow onions, cut into wedges
4–5 large carrots, peeled and cut into medium slices
1 whole head garlic, cut in half horizontally to expose the cloves
½ cup red wine
1 oz (28g) dried shiitake or forest mushrooms, broken into pieces
½ cup roasted barley (Korean barley tea)
1 bouquet garni
5–6 black peppercorns
Pinch of kosher salt
½ tsp Marmite (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425ºF/215ºC.
Stir together the oil and tomato paste in a large bowl. Add half of the onions, the carrots and garlic, and toss to coat well. Scatter the vegetables in a single layer in a large roasting pan or on a baking sheet with sides; use two pans if necessary to keep the vegetables from being too crowded.
Roast until the vegetables just start to color, about 15 minutes. Carefully flip the vegetables and return them to the oven. Continue roasting, flipping the vegetables every 6 to 8 minutes until they are evenly brown, about 30 to 35 minutes total. The vegetable tips and the cooking juices at the bottom of the pan should be dark brown and sticky but not at all burnt.
Scoop the roasted vegetables into a stockpot. Pour the wine into the hot roasting pan and use a wooden spoon to gently loosen and dissolve the stick brown bits into the wine. Pour the deglazing liquid into the stockpot and add the remaining onions, the mushrooms, roasted barley, bouquet garni, peppercorns and salt. Add enough cold water to cover the ingredients.
Bring to a boil, then half-cover the pot with a lid, reduce the heat and cook at a trembling simmer for 45 minutes; do not stir.
Set a sieve over a deep container. Line the sieve with a few layers of dampened cheesecloth to catch the smaller particulates. Strain the stock, without pressing on the solids; discard the solids.
Stir the Marmite, if using, into the hot stock.
Storage: Cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months.
Note: Putting pots of piping-hot stock in the refrigerator can raise the internal temperature to unsafe levels, so cool the stock before refrigerating.
Pressure-Cooker Rich & Savory Meatless Brown Stock
Combine the browned and fresh ingredients in a pressure cooker, seal and cook, following the manufacturer’s directions, for about 25 minutes.