I have a fantasy about Sundays. Call me old fashioned, call me a romantic, call me lame, but I picture Sunday Night Dinner as a national event boarding on holiday, taking place in households around the country. I imagine families all across country gathering at their family table for dinner, a weekly ritual with hearty, stick-to-your-ribs goodness and family cheer. I see fathers, sons, and brothers watching football, little kid rough housing in the back, mothers, sisters, and daughters gabbing away. I can practically taste the meat and potatoes, biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, potpie, homemade mac and cheese, and pound cake with whipped cream for dessert.
I know what you’re thinking, and you’re probably right. It’s an unrealistic, idealistic, and iconic vision more closely related to the Norman Rockwell portrayed of the ideal Thanksgiving than reality. And I should know, because in fact that is not how a Sunday spread looked at my house. While we had family dinner together every night of my childhood, I can probably count the number of times on one hand that any of those dishes showed up on our dinner table (except for chicken puffs… which was our version of potpie and I’m pretty sure would be my older brothers idea of the last supper). We were always more of a veggie burger / hamburger and fancy coleslaw family, with the occasional Vietnamese spring rolls appetizer and Russell Stover Chocolate for dessert thrown in. Don’t get me wrong, we ate good, like really good, food… it’s just that our idea of comfort was never exactly what you’d find on a down home southern style menu.
Until last night. In a true family collaboration, we seamlessly created old-school comfort with a northern, new age twist to suit the meat-eaters, vegetarians, health conscious and gluten driven alike. All remembers of my family had a hand in the preparation of the meal, even those that were not present for it’s consumption. (Thank you Amy for the carrot soufflé… it is the.bomb.). Marie made a classic meatloaf for my carnivorous brothers; Isaac took on his classic role as ‘mashed potatoes man’; and Eli sliced and toasted the bread (which was also made by Amy). My mom and I worked together to prepare a vegan meatloaf which was featured in the New York Times a few years ago on Thanksgiving, and one that I have continued to make for myself over the years. (It’s great the next day on a salad). For the gravy, I drew on a dish that I learned to make when I was a cook in Costa Rica; a mushroom gravy that is rich and spicy from lots of black pepper, and with the heartiness of the mushrooms you scarcely even know it’s vegetarian. Add some sautéed kale with red pepper flakes on the table and voila!
It was the Sunday Night Dinner dreams are made of. Well… my dreams anyway.
From the New York Times
I follow this recipe basically exactly how it’s listed, except I substitute whatever cooked grains I already have on hand (usually quinoa although last night it was wild mixed rice), and quinoa flakes for breadcrumbs. (Hey hey gluten free!) Sometimes I opt out of the breadcrumbs all together and just add more grain, and other times I like to throw some extra veggies in like red pepper or mushrooms.
Unfortunately there is no real recipe for this… but if I had to guess…
2 hands dried mixed mushrooms, re-hydrated in water (plus extra fresh mushrooms if you wish)
4 scallions, diced (white and green parts)
2-ish cups mushroom stock (the water used to rehydrate your mushrooms plus a little extra if needed)
¼ c. red wine
1 tbsp Cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tbsp water (for thickening)
A few dashes Worcestershire sauce
Salt and lots of black pepper
Allow dehydrated mushrooms to soak in water until tender. Remove mushrooms and squeeze to remove excess water. Reserve the water to use as your mushroom stock.
Give the mushrooms a rough chop and throw them into a pan with margarine or butter to cook. Cook for 5-8 minutes until mushrooms are tender. Add scallions and cook for another 2 minutes or so. Add mushroom stock, and red wine and allow mixture to come to a low boil. Dissolve cornstarch in water, and add half to the pan. As the gravy begins to heat up, the stock will begin to thicken and you can adjust by adding more water or cornstarch as necessary. Add a few dashes of Worcestershire, salt and lots of black pepper (1/2 – 1 teaspoon if I had to guess). Allow the gravy to continue cooking over a low heat until you have your desired thickness. Taste and adjust seasoning.