Around Thanksgiving, I have to take into account Robert, the vegetarian who stole my heart. So when it comes to developing a vegetarian Thanksgiving menu, I pretty much have the inside track.
Thanksgiving can be a cruel holiday for vegetarians. They’re usually left to graze on side dishes, and the gravy boat just sails past them. For Robert, as well as legions of vegetarians, gravy is the thing they miss the most. So I wanted to make a gravy that championed their cause, one so good that it would satisfy carnivores as well as vegetarians. The centerpiece of this menu is a savory Mushroom and Farro Pie, and I needed a gravy that would pair not only with smashed potatoes but would be irresistible sloshed over the other dishes. Take the simple sautéed broccoli rabe—with gravy, it’s a bit of heaven.
With Robert as my muse, I took inspiration from his other love—garlic. Roasting the garlic lends a real depth of flavor, and the secret—well, it’s out in the open now—is that I mix the roasted garlic in while making the roux. The fact that this gravy uses a quick homemade vegetable stock, as opposed to a bird-carcass stock that requires long simmering, makes it fast and friendly. Aside from the usual cast of vegetable stock characters like leek, carrot, and onion, I threw in a parsnip because it adds an earthy, sweet, homey flavor. The final one-two punch is a smidge of soy sauce, which not only boosts the flavors achieved by browning the vegetables but brings depth and that elusive umami as well. The result is a gravy that I’m truly proud of. It’s savory and satisfying and all the things you want gravy to be.
I’d like to say that there was a long and hard trail of testing and tasting with this recipe, but the truth is that it’s fairly simple and straightforward. Now I keep it in my freezer year round and bring it out when I want Robert to treasure me. But if he decides to become a vegan (I’m not giving up butter even for love), he’s on his own.