Here’s how to get an umami-packed sauce without the turkey drippings.
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By Tejal Rao
Last week was all about sides — brussels sprouts, plantains, yuca, squash, beans! But skipping a bird doesn’t have to mean skipping gravy. Gravy is the great unifying force of the Thanksgiving table, essential to every side, from the mashed potatoes to the roasted vegetables.
Eric Kim just shared a new recipe for his simple, delicious, make-ahead vegetarian gravy, and though he says the nutritional yeast is optional, please don’t skip it. Without the roasty-toasty bits of browned pan drippings, which give a traditional gravy its body and heft, you really do need to find other ways to build flavor.
Nutritional yeast, made from the tiny crumbs of Brewer’s yeast, is no longer active, but it still carries an umami-rich flavor thanks to naturally occurring MSG. Just a tablespoon of the stuff will transform two cups of gravy, giving it serious depth. And it keeps for ages, which means you’ll be able to find other uses for the rest of the canister.
Eric’s gravy recipe also calls for basic vegetable stock, but before you start your Thanksgiving cooking, it’s worth remembering that there are so many vegetarian stocks you can use when you’re making gravies, stuffings and other dishes, too.
Some quick veg stocks:
Miso broth: It’s so simple to dissolve a spoonful of sweet and salty miso into hot water (use a tea strainer or sieve held in the water to avoid lumps!).
Bean broth: The cooking liquid from dried beans, even if you’ve added nothing to the pot but a glug of olive oil and a pinch of salt, is absurdly rich with flavor.
Kombu stock: Bring water up to a boil, then turn it off and add a piece of dried kelp. This works great in any dishes that might traditionally require a seafood base, but since it’s not actually fishy, it’s quite versatile.
Mushroom stock: You can make a vegetable stock using sweated, fresh mushrooms, but you can also soak dried mushrooms such as shiitake or porcini in water, some of which have a really intense, almost smoky flavor.
Scrap broth: I usually make this while I’m prepping anything vegetable-heavy, throwing my fennel tops, carrot peels, onion ends and herb stems into a small pot of simmering water instead of the compost heap.
And if you’re really, really, really into making stock, you can make a Super Veg Stock by making kombu-mushroom broth using a fresh vegetable stock instead of water, and then whisking miso into it.
But what about recipes for this week? Right now, I want David Tanis’s wobbly mapo tofu on hot white rice, or maybe Zainab Shah’s comforting sabzi: carrots, peas, cauliflower and potatoes in a spicy tomato dressing seasoned with ginger, garlic and toasted cumin seeds. Learn Zainab’s basic technique, and you can use any vegetables you like, adding in chard or fennel, cabbage or green beans, or swapping out peas for soybeans.
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Vegan Mapo Tofu
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One More Thing!
This way for more vegan and vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes. And if you haven’t been in charge of the meal before, spend a little time with this great guide, which walks you through the process of menu planning, how much food you need to cook per person, and more.
And Eric wrote a beginner’s guide to cooking Thanksgiving, which has some great suggestions like cheesy pizza stuffing; mashed sweet potatoes with roasted garlic; green bean, artichoke and radicchio salad; and a gorgeous caramel apple pudding for dessert.
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