Cooking On The Go
By Janet Groene, F47166
How can you turn almost anything into a main course? Stir it into a cream sauce and serve it over noodles, pasta, or some other food. When you’re rushed for time or short on ingredients, go for the gravy with the following recipes.
Crabmeat Cream Gravy
1 small onion, finely diced
3 tablespoons regular or instant-blend flour
14-ounce can chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream*
2 cups cooked crabmeat (fresh, pasteurized, or canned), picked over and well drained
1 cup diced tomatoes, fresh or canned, well drained
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, cook the onion until it is limp, and stir in the flour. In a separate bowl, add enough water to the chicken broth to make 11/2 cups. Gradually stir the broth into the flour mixture over medium heat. Continue stirring while adding the cream until the mixture thickens. Turn the burner down to low and add the crabmeat and tomatoes. When everything is well heated, add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon over one of the food items included in the list that follows the recipes in this column. This gravy makes enough for four to six servings. Complete the meal with steamed peas and tiny onions, a side dish of creamy slaw, and a dump cake for dessert.
*You may substitute cream with 1 cup evaporated milk or 2/3-cup dry milk powder stirred into 1 cup water.
Caramelized Mushroom Gravy
1/2-stick butter (1/4-cup)
1 small onion, finely diced
16-ounce package sliced mushrooms
1/4-cup instant-blend flour
15-ounce can chicken, beef, or vegetable broth
Milk if needed
Scant 1/4-teaspoon nutmeg
Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the onion and mushrooms. Cook over medium-high heat until the mushrooms turn brown. In a separate bowl, gradually stir enough broth into the flour to make a smooth paste, and then add the rest of the broth. Stir the flour-broth mixture until smooth and add to the hot mushroom mixture. Continuing cooking and stirring until the gravy thickens. If necessary, add milk to thin to the right consistency. Stir in nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve over a starch as a main dish. This recipe makes two to four servings.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon sweet (Hungarian) paprika
1/3-cup instant-blend flour
1 cup water
16-ounce carton (2 cups) regular, low fat, or fat-free sour cream
In a frying pan, cook the beef in the oil, stirring and breaking up the meat. Add the onion and garlic. When the onion is translucent and the beef is no longer pink, stir in the paprika. In a separate bowl, stir the flour and water together and add into the meat mixture until it thickens and bubbles. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat and stir in the sour cream. Serve over one of the starches listed at the end of these recipes and complete the plate with red cabbage slaw and steamed sugar peas.
This recipe appeared in a recent column but bears repeating here, because it’s such a lifesaver for breakfast and dessert dishes. Make it with real, imitation, or sugar-free maple syrup and serve it warm, cold, or at room temperature. Try it with French toast, pancakes, pound cake, cinnamon toast, ice cream, baked ham, sweet potatoes, or canned fruit.
1 stick real butter
16-ounce bottle pancake syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour to make a smooth paste. Over low heat, add the syrup and stir constantly until the mixture is smooth and thick. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. To reheat, microwave gently and add a little water or more syrup if necessary. If you need a sweeter gravy, add two or three packets of artificial sweetener or up to 1/2-cup sugar into the hot, cooked gravy. Stir to dissolve.
Spoon this over macaroni and cheese, a toasted cheese sandwich, or baked green pepper halves stuffed with corned beef hash from a can, and you have a complete meal. Or, serve it over mashed potatoes or any other starch dish for an offbeat side dish with meat from the grill. It can also be used as a sauce atop other vegetables such as green peas, cauliflower, broccoli, or green beans.
1 stick butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium green pepper, diced (optional)
15- or 16-ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and stir in the onion and pepper until they are softened. Stir in the flour to make a thick paste, and then gradually add the tomatoes, stirring constantly. When the mixture thickens, add water or chicken broth if necessary to thin to the desired consistency. Add seasonings to taste. Serve hot.
Oliva Twist Gravy
12-ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
16-ounce can (2 cups) tomato sauce
Small can (2.25 ounces) sliced black olives, well drained
10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and pressed dry
8-ounce can sliced mushrooms, drained
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon garlic salt
Hot pepper sauce (optional, to taste)
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Thin twists of fresh lemon peel
Combine everything except the cheese and lemon in a saucepan and heat just to boiling.
Reduce heat; cover; and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Spoon the gravy over a starch to serve as a meatless main dish, or as a side dish with meat from the grill. This recipe also makes a delicious gravy when served over other vegetables, such as cauliflower or fried eggplant. Just before serving, sprinkle with the grated cheese and top with a lemon twist.
Bean And Bacon Gravy
This chunky gravy goes well over cooked rice, mashed potatoes, or almost any starch found in the “Underlying issues” list.
9 slices bacon, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
19-ounce can kidney, black, or white beans, rinsed and drained
1/4-cup instant-blend flour
13-ounce can evaporated milk
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Stir-fry the bacon over medium-high heat in a roomy saucepan, gradually adding the onion, celery, and carrot. When the vegetables are tender, and the bacon is crisp, pour off the excess bacon grease. Add the beans. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour and water and add to the bean mixture. Gradually stir in the evaporated milk over low-medium heat until the mixture is thick and bubbly. After adding the milk, be sure to stir constantly and keep the heat set at low to keep the milk from scalding. Spoon over the desired item and serve hot. This recipe makes four servings.
Melloyello Barbecue Gravy
This saucy, hot gravy can transform bland meat into a flavor sensation on the plate or turn it into a juicy, hot sandwich. It’s perfect over hot dogs and hamburgers. Cold, leftover gravy can be brushed on meat before grilling. Or, stir it by the teaspoonful, to taste, into sandwich fillings such as egg salad or tuna salad. A little of this gravy goes a long way, so one batch will last for several meals.
16-ounce bottle (2 cups) prepared yellow mustard
16-ounce bottle ketchup
16-ounce bottle cider vinegar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4-cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2- to 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional, to taste)
Mix everything together in a saucepan and heat, stirring, until it boils. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Spoon lightly over hot, cooked meat or toss a few tablespoons with hot, boiled potatoes and a nugget of butter until the potatoes are coated and colored.
Gravies can be served over dozens of different foods to create a new dish each time. In addition to made-from-scratch versions, many of these items are also available in ready-to-eat, instant, frozen, packaged, canned, or refrigerated form. They can be dressed up (toast points instead of a slab of toast; piped mashed potatoes instead of spooned mounds) or simply piled on the plate and smothered with gravy. Go for taste compatibility (i.e., ham and peas gravy over mashed sweet potatoes, but not something salty, such as canned potato sticks) and for good texture contrast, such as creamed tuna over crusty toast or biscuits rather than pasty mashed potatoes.
Serve gravies over:
- Mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes
- Grits or cheese grits
- Grated cabbage, from coarse-cut to angel hair
- Cooked noodles; pastas of all sizes and shapes
- Chinese noodles (beware of high salt and fat contents)
- Toasted ramen noodles
- Fresh, hot biscuits or toast
- French-cut green beans, cooked to crisp-tender
- Toasted bread or waffles
Additional gravy tips
In the supermarket, look for canned, heat-and-eat gravies, such as sausage, creamed chicken, or cheese rarebit gravy.
Cut ingredients extra fine for your favorite gravy (such as chipped beef gravy or creamed spinach) and serve it as a hot dip with crackers, tortilla chips, or raw vegetable sticks.
Short of cooking burners? Make gravy ahead of time and keep it warm in a wide-mouth thermos bottle.
Cook up a saucepan of gravy and use it to heat hot dogs or fully-cooked deli meat, such as roast beef or roasted turkey.
Books for cooks
Stuck for menu ideas? Author Penny E. Stone has one for every day of the year in her 365 Quick, Easy & Inexpensive Dinner Menus ($19.95, Champion Press Ltd.). The recipes are easy enough for a busy cook; affordable (some are as little as 75 cents per serving); and palate-pleasing for the average family. On the minus side, most recipes are high in carbs, calories, fat, or all three, so the calorie-conscious cook will want to devise substitutes for the high sugar or fat content of many dishes. On the plus side, it’s inspiring to sit down with this book and find so many ideas for complete, three-course meals.
Karen Pellegrin, author of Fat-Free Desserts, has now written Power Desserts: The Ultimate Collection of Nutrition-Packed, Reduced-Fat Indulgences ($12.95, Champion Press Ltd.). It’s a collection of no-guilt cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, and even cheesecakes that look great but are reduced in fat. The book is a boon to diabetics and other carbohydrate counters, because a nutritional breakdown is given for each dessert. It even includes a recipe for making your own low-fat chocolate chips.
Deep-fat fryers have made a comeback in the appliance department, and their compact size makes them practical for the motorhome cook to carry on at least some trips. Imagine making your own fried specialties, using fresh and healthful oils, proper temperatures, and the best ingredients. Olivia Friedman tells you how in Fry It … You’ll Like It! 99 Fried and True Recipes to Overcome Your Fear of Frying ($12.95, Champion Press Ltd.). With the book’s guidance, anyone can make traditional favorites such as chicken fingers and battered shrimp, and discover luscious new ideas such as crisp bowtie pasta snacks and salmon croquettes.
Uncle Buck foods
If a Bass Pro Shop lies along your route, hit the brakes even if you’re not an angler. As many travelers already know, these shops sell items for everyone who loves the outdoors, and they are staffed by knowledgeable clerks who can help you fill specialized needs of all kinds. Their Uncle Buck foods are a goldmine of shelf-stable supplies for boondocking. Stock up on biscuit and pancake mixes; a delicious cobbler mix; bottled salsa; beef or turkey jerky; and the world’s best selection of batters and breading for frying fish and chicken. (Bass Pro Shops’ lightweight plastic Better Breader Pan allows quick, mess-free breading. It’s a lifesaver when you have an assembly line going to feed a crowd at a fish fry or fried chicken supper.) I skip the Uncle Buck soup mixes, however. Despite long cooking and the extra ingredients that are required, they still shout “dehydrated.”