This Chick’s mouth was watering when she read Kimberly Kincaid’s gravy recipe, OH YUM. Kimberly writes contemporary romance novels that split the difference between sexy and sweet, taking the traditional idea of boy-meets-girl and infusing it with a sassy magic all her own. She believes in fiery yet flawed characters destined for a crash-course in falling in love (usually the hard way) and injects her trademark humor as well as poignant touches into her writing to create her stories. An avid foodie and active at-home cook, Kimberly’s current project— a multi-book series of foodie romance— brings together the best of both worlds. Feel free to visit her website, www.kimberlykincaid.com or say hi on Facebook (www.facebook.com/kimberly.kincaid1) and Twitter (@KimberlyKincaid).
It’s highly likely that as each of us read those two words, the images they brought to mind were as unique as our fingerprints. Some of us are comforted by the exotic and wonderful spices of chai tea, while others prefer the crisp tartness found in Lemon Zinger. Tea’s not your bag? (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) Perhaps you find comfort in the bold richness of Columbian coffee, or the decadent glide of hot chocolate. Whatever your pleasure, many of us are comforted by the items in our pantries. Indulging in the comfort of good food can erase some of the crummiest of bad days, as well as heighten the triumphs of the good. Either way, comfort food doesn’t just nourish the body. It nourishes the soul.
One of my favorite things on the planet is a simmering pot of gravy. I come from an Italian-American family, and we take our gravy very seriously. Most of you are picturing turkey right now, or perhaps even meatloaf, right? Not so fast, readers! In my house, gravy is what most people call “sauce,” and even though the staples are usually the same, there are countless ways to make your gravy your own.
Here’s a basic recipe, along with some other ideas to substitute according to your preferences. This is the kind of recipe you should absolutely play with (sometimes I go according to what I have on-hand). I will admit to the fact that not many things comfort me like the smell of this on the stove, and that my family has— more than once— eaten a loaf of bread and a pot of gravy for dinner.
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced fine
2 stalks celery, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
1 large carrot, diced fine
2 cloves garlic
2 fresh bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 cans (28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes (organic preferred)
1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 cup beef broth (half and half with water is fine for lower sodium), plus more for thinning
Chopped flatleaf parsley (a generous handful) for garnish
*Please note— this is the vegetarian version (to which you can add meatballs or sausage and simmer for a while— keep reading for more on that). If you like meat directly in your gravy, you can add a pound of ground beef or a half-pound of ground beef and a half-pound of bulk sausage to the sauce for something akin to Bolognese. Both versions are soul-soothingly good.
In a large stockpot, warm olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery and carrot, stirring often, until soft, adding two cloves of garlic and two fresh bay leaves in the last two minutes of cooking (7-8 minutes total). Add Italian seasoning. *If you’re adding ground meat, now’s the time! Crumble with a wooden spoon until no longer pink, then proceed* If you’ve got any lovely brown bits on the bottom of the pot from the veggies, de-glaze with a splash of beef broth (red wine works well here too, the alcohol cooks off so it’s safe for kiddos by the time you’re done!). Add all three cans of tomatoes and the pinch of allspice, and heat to a low bubble.
Simmer, uncovered (best. smells. EVER in your house!) for at least an hour on the lowest heat setting, adding broth and/or water to thin the gravy as necessary. If you’re adding meatballs and/or sausage, now’s the time! If they’re already cooked through, then keeping your pot uncovered is okay. If not, I’d suggest simmering with the pot covered for about thirty minutes to ensure that all meats are cooked through to safe temperatures.
When you’re ready to serve (the longer you let this simmer, the better it tends to be), put this over your favorite pasta (linguine is good, as are penne and rigatoni— both stand up to the thickness of the gravy nicely), sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve. I’ve used this gravy in lasagna recipes, as dipping sauce for stromboli, over pasta…you name it, and it works. It’s comfort food personified!
What’s your version of comfort food, and how did you discover it? One lucky commenter today will win a copy of Table Of Contents, a book of recipes from authors like James Patterson and Barbara Delinsky.