I just realized that I’ve not yet provided a full report on our first vegetarian Thanksgiving. To start, the vegetable pot pie recipe from Kim O’Donnel’s great book The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook were such a hit that Mike thinks they should become an annual tradition. My sister made her first batch of stuffing with thyme-spiked vegetable stock instead of turkey stock, then studded it with cranberries, walnuts and roasted vegetables. Honestly, it was some of the best stuffing she’s ever made.
For me, the holidays are all about the mashed potatoes and gravy. My niece Sarah won’t eat mushrooms, so I gently coaxed three large sweet onion to caramelize to a mahogany color and used them in a recipe similar to this one. I didn’t have any arrowroot to thicken it, and I don’t like the flavor of cornstarch. In a moment of inspiration, I took some oatmeal and pulverize it in the coffee grinder that I set aside for herbs. Voila! Instantly thickened gravy.
So, now I’m contemplating Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day dinner. We’ll have carnivore friends visiting us for the holiday. I’m eyeing the chard and lentil shepard’s pie, another dish from Kim O’Donnel’s book. I can always make a traditional one with beef. That should satisfy everyone, right?
Onion Herb Gravy
The stock determines whether this is vegetarian and the final flavor; traditional English gravies use beef stock. Use oil in place of butter along with vegetable stock to make it vegan-friendly. The onions can be caramelized a couple of days in advance; caramlized onions can also be frozen and make a great addition to virtually any savory dish.
If using a thin vegetable stock, the resulting gravy may need a boost to hit your desired thickness. Add a bit of any traditional thickener, such as arrowroot, potato starch, Wondra, tapioca or cornstarch or try my handy trick of whizzing some oatmeal in a coffee grinder. Be careful and add only a teaspoon at a time and whisk well to avoid creating lumps.
2 large sweet onions, such as Vidalia
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoon flour
3 cups stock (vegetable, mushroom, poultry or beef)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
Coarse salt, black pepper
Thinly slice the onions. Add oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the onions and bay leaf. Stirring regularly, saute the onions for about 10 minutes, adding splashes of water as needed to keep from sticking to the bottom of the pan. After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to medium-low and stir from time to time until the onions are a deep brown color, about 35 minutes.
When ready to make the gravy, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Make a roux by adding the flour and whisk to incorporate and lightly cook the flour until it smells like popcorn. Add the stock and bring to gentle boil while whisking. Add the onions, bay leaf, thyme, a couple pinches of salt and a few grinds of coarse pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Spoon off any foam or fat that rises to the surface. Taste. Add more salt and pepper until it reaches the flavor you want. Remove the bay leaf before serving.