Vegetarian Times (November 2013)
Yesterday, we hosted Fakesgiving, our annual test run of a whole bunch of Thanksgiving dishes.
Essentially, that means that we've done nothing but cook and clean for the last 48 hours. And just about every dish we own is currently dirty. But we love Fakesgiving. It's always a great time filled with good food and good friends (and, last year, The Washington Post!).
This year, we made 15 dishes, and we can't wait to share them with you. Many of the dishes we made were big hits that you should definitely consider adding to your Thanksgiving menu this year. There were other dishes that were less popular, and we'll talk about those, too.
And then there was this Pear and Port Gravy.
It represents a Fakesgiving first: a dish so bad we decided not to serve it.
We only started reading Vegetarian Times earlier this year. We've made a few things from it that we quite enjoyed, including a Miso-Glazed Cauliflower and Kale Salad and, just a couple weeks ago, a surprisingly delicious Red Cabbage Salad with Curried Seitan.
But this was the first time we included Vegetarian Times in our Thanksgiving round-up. We considered trying out a vegetarian main dish, but the ones featured in the magazine (including a Rigatoni Torte with Ricotta and Fall Vegetables and a Winter Squash Pot Pie with Swiss Chard and Chickpeas) just didn't really turn our crank. They sound really tasty, but we just weren't excited about them for our Fakesgiving menu.
Making a vegetable dish from Vegetarian Times seemed sort of like a cheat. So we settled on this gravy. We love a nice meaty, savory, silky smooth gravy, so we wanted to see what a meatless version would be like. And the addition of pears and port here seemed like an interesting twist.
It's pretty straightforward prep. Brown the veggies, add the liquid, boil, reduce. We prepared this to the letter, except for one substitution: We did not use Vegetarian Times' own recipe for Rich Vegetable Broth. We used store-bought vegetable stock instead.
After an hour of reducing this down, we tried it.
We hated it.
We're sorry for saying that. We don't mean to be mean, but it was not good. Not good at all. The texture was gloppy and gluey, and the taste was off-puttingly sweet. As promised, it tasted like pears and wine. But it turns out that's not something you want in a turkey gravy, at least in our opinions. (To be fair, a vegan gravy is obviously not intended to go with a turkey. But still.)
We each tried it (along with Zach's sister Cassidy, who provided indispensable help in Fakesgiving cooking). We tried it again. We unanimously decided it wasn't worth serving.
Was it absolutely awful? No, we guess not. But we knew nobody in the room would like it. So we threw it out.
If you're a vegetarian, or if you're cooking for one on Thanksgiving, here's our advice: Stick to vegetables. There are plenty of delicious Thanksgiving vegetable side dishes to make anybody happy -- mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, corn, Brussels sprouts.
You'll just have to find another gravy.
Makes 1 2/3 cups
1 cup chopped leek (white and pale green parts)
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 ½ Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups Rich Vegetable Broth
1 cup vegan tawny port
1 cup organic pear juice
½ cup dry red wine
1 ½ tsp. tomato paste
Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add leek, garlic, and rosemary. Sauté 3 minutes, or until leek softens. Sprinkle flour over leek. Stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until flour starts to color.
Add Rich Vegetable Broth and remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 50 to 60 minutes, or until gravy is reduced to about 1 2/3 cups, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.