Sunday, December 29, 2013

Vegetable A La King:

Save A Chicken, Eat a Vegetable

The other day my wife said she wished I could make a vegetarian Chicken a la King. A little light went on in my head and I thought to myself: Challenge accepted!

"Blank" a la King is one the ultimate comfort foods. Served over noodles, rice or a variety of bread types, it's a creamy and savory delight with chunks of whatever kind of goodness you can imagine mixed in. In this case, those chunks of goodness are veggies. 

My wife and I used to eat one we'd buy out of the can years ago. I want to say it was from Swanson's or Campbell's or something like that. Back when we first met, we were still very young and would eat pretty much anything. It didn't matter if it came from a can or out of box. If it was tasty and cheap, we ate it. Looking back to those days of yore, I have to smile in the warm memory of our younger more carefree days and then immediately shudder in disgust that we actually ate that shit.

As I've grown older, I've come to realize a few things. First of all, it's no secret that canned and boxed foods are usually highly processed and will kill you. In fact, according to a recent study, even breathing causes cancer. So if any of you hope to live until tomorrow, you need to quit breathing posthaste!! 

Secondly, I love to cook, especially from scratch. I don't always have the time to it but I do it as much as I can. Standing in a kitchen on my day off with groceries spread around, a 10" Henckel in my hand, and something simmering on the stovetop is one of the most relaxing places I can think of. I can just let my mind flow in a "Let go Luke, use the Force" kinda way to create something wonderful. Then when it's all done, you get to eat it. And if you're truly lucky, you have the sheer pleasure of sharing it with friends and family. You get to hear them tell you how awesome it was. And then your ego can get all super big because none of them can cook as good as you. And then you can stand on your pedestal and look down at all the lame little people who don't posses and never will posses your brilliant culinary chops. Whoa!! That got a little out of hand. But anyone who's ever worked in a professional kitchen is probably chuckling right now because that really happens.

Taking those two realizations and putting them together actually works out quite well. I can still eat some of my favorite foods and not have to get it from a can thereby avoiding most of the unnecessary chemical-based gobbledy-gook that comes mixed in with our alleged "food".

Am I saying this recipe is the ultimate in healthy just because I make it from scratch? Nope. It's still fattening. But as I said before, it's a comfort food. And even though it's still fattening, it's healthier and definitely tastier than the canned version. Trust me, you'll thank me from the top of your pedestal. Enjoy!! 

Vegetable a la King


  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (one and a half sticks), divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley 
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 medium bell pepper, chopped
  • 1-2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 2 cups peas
  • 4 oz. jar pimentos
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Your choice of starch: rice, egg noodles, biscuits, puff pastry shells, toast points. 


    1. In a dutch oven or heavy pot, melt 1/2 cup (one stick) of the butter over a medium high heat. Once melted, add the flour and stir constantly for about 2 minutes.  

    2. Add in 1 cup one the vegetable broth and whisk to combine all together. Once combined, add in the remaining broth and the cream. Now add the bouillon, parsley sprigs, and the thyme sprigs and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. 

    3. While the sauce is simmering, melt the remaining 1/4 cup (half stick) of butter in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Once melted, add the carrots, cauliflower and celery and saute for 5 minutes. Now add in the bell pepper and the shallot and continue to saute for another 5-10 minutes until veggies begin to soften. 

    4. Using tongs or a spider, remove the parsley and thyme sprigs from the sauce and discard. 

    5. Add the sauteed veggies to the sauce along with the salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg and continue to cook until veggies reach the desired doneness. 

    6. Serve over your choice of starch. 

    Makes: 6-8 servings

    Sunday, December 8, 2013

    Vegetarian Gravy:

    Don't Worry, Carnivores...We Got This

    Gravy. I absolutely love it. But it's not something I eat on a regular basis. For me, it's maybe two or three times a year. And most of that is consumed during the winter holiday season. That being said, when I do eat it, I do it with reckless abandon. Caloric value is of no concern to me when it comes to this stuff. I guess you could say I was livin' life in fat lane. Oops, typo there, I meant "fast" lane. 

    Because gravy usually goes with some sort of meat based dish, it's rare to find one that is vegetable based. As such, it would appear that if we vegetarians want gravy, we have to look out for one another in this matter and create our own so we too can participate in all the holiday eatin'. My wife and I are, for the most part, the only vegetarians that we know. Fortunately, our friends and family are usually pretty accommodating when it comes to inviting us for dinner and we really do appreciate them for that. But we also don't feel it's right to expect them to do what they do. That being said, we're always prepared and happy to come armed with our own grub. So if mashed potatoes are on the menu, I don't mind whipping up my own gravy and bringing it along. Sounds weird, I know, but you gotta do what ya gotta do.     

    Recently, we had the pleasure of getting together with my family to visit with some out-of-town relatives that we don't get to see too often. Lasagna was on the menu. My aunt actually made a separate lasagna dish with no meat just for my wife and I. She totally didn't have to do that but she did. My family are such thoughtful and wonderful people. 

    Vegetarian gravy, conceptually, is really no different than meat gravy. Gravy, in and of itself, is basically a flavorful broth that's tightened up with a roux in order to give it that thickened consistency. The
    obvious intention, in both meat based and vegetable based gravies, is to make the broth taste good. For me, the best way to do that in a vegetarian version is to incorporate that "umami" essence within your broth. That's what is going to give it that hearty, almost meaty, feel to it. Our umami in this recipe comes from two sources: soy sauce and mushrooms. And that's enough for me. In my humble opinion, I don't think you need the Marmites and the nutritional yeasts to get it right. I prefer to keep it somewhat simple. 

    Note: The three fresh herbs in this recipe can often be found together in one package labeled "poultry mix". 

    Note: People differ in how thick or thin they like their gravy. If the roux doesn't thicken the gravy to your satisfaction, mix a tablespoon or two in an equal amount of cool water, enough to make a slurry (one part to one part). Whisk the slurry, little by little, into your hot simmering gravy until the desired thickness is achieved. You may not need to add all of it so add it slowly until it's just right. 

    Vegetarian Gravy


    • 3 Tbsp olive oil
    • 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced 
    • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
    • 1 shallot, chopped
    • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
    • 4 cups of vegetable stock
    • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
    • 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
    • 1/4 tsp white pepper
    • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
    • 1 cup water
    • 2 sprig of fresh thyme
    • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
    • 10 fresh sage leaves
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
    • 1/3 cup flour


      1. In a dutch oven or heavy pot, heat the oil over a medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add the mushrooms, onion, shallot, and garlic. Saute for 10-15 minutes until the vegetables are browned. 

      2. Once the vegetables have browned, add in the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Now add the bouillon cube, poultry seasoning, white pepper, and soy sauce. Simmer on low for about 10 minutes.  

      3. Now add the water, thyme, rosemary, sage. Season with salt and pepper to your taste and simmer on low for an additional 10 minutes. 

      4. Remove the broth from the heat and strain through a sieve to remove all the solids. With the back of a wooden spoon, press the solids in the sieve to extract as much of the liquid that you can. Set the broth aside and discard the solids. 

      5. To make the roux, put your dutch oven back on the burner over a medium heat. Add the butter and melt. Once melted, add the flour and stir constantly for about 1-2 minutes, being careful not let the roux burn.  

      6. Now add you broth back into the dutch oven with the roux and whisk until fully incorporated. Bring the gravy back to a simmer. Let simmer for a few minutes to allow the gravy to fully thicken. 

      Makes: 12 servings