People regularly assume that vegetarians need and want extra special meals to make up for the fact that they are missing meat. Often, I will be served absurd quantities of side dishes- oh you don’t want the chicken, here you must need twenty rolls instead. Sometimes, it comes in the form of some strikingly complex alternative- no pork chop for you, here’s a braised mushroom-leak-asparagus stew with fifty million herbs in it to make it taste good. There are even occasions when the appropriate substitute seems to be an entire farm’s worth of produce on a plate, the indemnifying salad, and while I am no fan of flesh, I am also not a ruminant. There are times when I, just like everyone else, crave and flock to traditional comfort foods.
When I say traditional comfort foods, I mean traditional in the purest sense of the word. One beautiful example of this is mashed potatoes and brown gravy. Brown gravy… what is it even? It’s clearly just named after its appearance. Usually it does contain the broth or fat from some meat product- typically turkey or beef. It is the absolute perfect accompaniment to a pile of mashed potatoes. You prepare the mashed potatoes, southern-style, with cream and butter. The gravy should provide a pop of flavor, a salty component that completes the side dish. Most vegetarian alternatives have chunks of mushroom, thyme, parsley, and lord knows what else in there. Those options never provided me with the simplicity I was looking for. So, we made our own!
I have to say, the first bite I took of these mashed potatoes with this gravy really transported me back to the days when I ate brown gravy at Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. They are so perfectly simple and gratifying, there is no need to spruce them up or make them fancy. As an added bonus, they are also incredibly easy to make.
We love to have these as a side on our “southern nights” with peas, collards, chicken, and white sauce. I will admit, in the past we have made packaged mashed potatoes. Now, obviously those are not really mashed potatoes, or even actual food for that matter. But we always thought that it would be too difficult and time-consuming to make homemade mashed potatoes once a week. Wrong. These are so easy to make! They take about half an hour and although we use an immersion blender to mash them, you really can just as easily use a fork!
For any vegetarians or health conscious omnivores, I hope this alternative provides you with the same satisfaction it did for me! It is simple in both its traditional flavor and cooking process!
Mashed Potatoes + Vegetarian Brown Gravy
for the mashed potatoes
1/4 cup kosher salt (to be mixed with boiling water)
2 russet potatoes (about 1 3/4 lbs)
1/3 cup milk (we use 2%)
1 1/2 tablespoons salted butter
salt and pepper to taste (we use 1/4 tsp each)
for the gravy
2 1/2 tablespoons salted butter
1/4 cup AP flour
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon pepper
I’d recommend starting with your gravy, as it can be easily reheated and you will want your mashed potatoes fresh.
Start by making your vegetable broth if you are using bouillon. You’ll want to have that already prepped. We use 1 tablespoon of better than bouillon per cup of water.
Next, make a roux. In a large skillet or shallow pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Slowly whisk in the flour to create a thick roux.
Add the broth very slowly while whisking. You want the roux to continue to thicken but to get darker in color, almost like a miso paste.
Finally, whisk in the milk, soy sauce, and pepper! Let the gravy continue to cook over low heat. It will thicken while you make the mashed potatoes!
Begin by washing and scrubbing the potatoes. We like the peel to be included so we leave them intact, but if you hate it- peel them!
Chop the potatoes into cubes, this will help them cook faster.
Combine two quarts of water with 1/4 cup kosher salt in a heavy pot over high heat. Add in the chopped potatoes. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, it should take around 5 minutes for them to cook. They are ready to be drained when a fork slides easily through them.
Drain the potatoes and put them in a large bowl.
Add the milk, butter, salt, and pepper. Mash with a fork or immersion blender until desired consistency is reached!
If you are using an immersion blender, do be careful, or you’ll end up with potato soup!
Top the mashed potatoes with brown gravy and enjoy!