Thanksgiving Cooking: Impossible Meatballs and Mushroom Gravy
To prepare for Thanksgiving, Sanchali Pal joined Erik Drobey for a plant-based cookalong in his California kitchen. Erik is Sous-chef at Wursthall and Bierhaus and works in Research and Development at Impossible Foods. In other words: he’s the expert chef you want on speed dial for a delicious Thanksgiving menu. Throughout the cookalong, Erik explained ingredient proportions, how to choose oils, and techniques to take your meal to the next level. Catch the full recording on Youtube to learn the simple art of plant-based meat preparation.
How did you become interested in cooking with plant-based meat?
In recent years, I’ve grown increasingly aware of the ravages mega-ranches and the meat industry have wrought on our planet. I know that consumers’ consumption of meat at current levels is unsustainable and that we need to change our habits, and change them now.
I’ve never eaten a meat-heavy diet myself, but I’ve trimmed my consumption of meat (beef especially) for this reason. At Wursthall, I had the opportunity to cook with Impossible Burger, which we used in various recipes and with which I was thoroughly impressed.
Can you share your experience cooking with plant-based meat?
Within 20 minutes of cooking with Impossible products, I had tried four different things. I made a burger. I made some meatballs. I made a skewered kofta kabob. I tried casing it and making sausage. I tried doing all kinds of things; some of those things worked really well and some of them didn’t.
For chefs at home. Impossible Meat works well in most applications like burgers, chili, meatballs, and meatloaf. I often choose meatballs over meatloaf because meatloaf is difficult to slice clean. There are very few applications where it won’t work, I'd just caution against people expecting it to slice clean after you cook it.
How healthy are Impossible Foods products?
I'm not a nutritionist, however from what I understand of the product, it’s nutritionally comparable to beef. With that in mind, I treat Impossible Meat like any other meat product. I wouldn't have an Impossible Burger every day, just like I wouldn't have a Wursthall Smashburger every day, even though they're both delicious.
Impossible Meatballs and Mushroom Gravy is a great dish for anyone who wants to eat more plants but still craves classic animal-based dishes. This recipe is completely vegan and can be made gluten free by substituting all-purpose flour with gluten free all purpose flour, cornstarch, or tapioca flour.
To fully enjoy this recipe, we recommend you also make your favorite starch as a base. Impossible Meatballs go well with rice, noodles, or polenta, which is Erik’s recommendation.
Prepare the meatballs
The first step is to form the meatballs. This is much like making animal-based meatballs. Start by makinga panade, the mixture that will hold the meatballs together.Add the bread and stock (or water) to a food processor and blend until the mixture becomes a thick paste. If the mixture is too dry, add stock or water, a tablespoon at a time, as necessary. Set aside.
Next, mix the ground Impossible Meat, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, nutmeg, and parsley together by hand. Add the panade and mix until all ingredients are incorporated.
Place the mixture in the freezer for 10-20 minutes or the refrigerator for an hour.
While the meatball mixture chills, clean and prepare the mushrooms for the mushroom stock and the mushroom gravy. To prepare mushroom stock from scratch, assemble mushroom stock ingredients and place mushroom stock on the stove. See instructions for both below.
Remove meatball mixture from your freezer or refrigerator and use a scoop or your hands to form the meatballs. You can make them as small or large as you like depending on your preference.
Place meatballs on a tray and refrigerate or freeze until you’re ready to cook them.
To cook your meatballs, fill a large skillet with one-quarter inch of oil. When the oil is hot (350º-375ºF), place meatballs carefully in the pan. Avoid overcrowding and cook in batches if necessary. Brown on one side, then flip and brown on the second side. Cook to desired degree of doneness (140º-155ºF).
Remove from pan to a paper-towel-lined plate or rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt.
If not using immediately, freeze on a sheet tray, then store, frozen, in ziploc bags.
Prepare the mushroom gravy
The mushroom gravy transforms the meatballs into the type of mouthwatering dish you might order at a restaurant, something many of us miss given the current circumstances.
Before you start cooking, wipe each mushroom cap clean with a damp towel or paper towels (rinsing or completely submerging the mushrooms will result in soggy mushrooms).
Once mushrooms are clean, snap the stem off each and reserve for the mushroom stock.
Next, slice (or roughly chop) the cleaned mushroom caps, mince shallots, and garlic. Set aside for the roux.
To cook mushrooms, heat oil over medium-high heat & sauté in a large skillet. Add salt to taste and stir frequently. Cook mushrooms until all liquid evaporates and most of the mushroom slices are light golden around the edges.
In a separate pan, make a roux (mixture that will thicken the gravy). Place oil and flour in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and whisk to combine. Cook until the flour darkens slightly, about three minutes depending on the heat of your pan. Add mushroom stock gradually, whisking constantly. Season to taste and keep warm.
(Note: to make the recipe gluten free, you can replace flour with all purpose gluten free flour, tapioca starch, or cornstarch.)
Next, add the porcini and shallots to the pan with the sautéed mushrooms and stir until shallots are translucent, about 2 minutes. Next, add the garlic and cook for another minute (waiting to add the garlic preserves the taste).
Once the garlic has cooked for 1 minute, add tomato paste and cook for another minute. Next, add soy sauce and cook for 1 more minute. Be sure to actively stir the mixture as you add in each ingredient.
After combining soy sauce and tomato paste, add wine, beer, or water and reduce the mixture until it is almost evaporated. Alcohol is a wonderful addition to this recipe because it adds acidity to the taste. You can use older wine or champagne - double check to make sure it’s still good before adding to the recipe. If it smells and tastes more like vinegar, the wine or champagne is too old.
Finally add the roux and lemon juice to the mushrooms. Adding liquid to the mixture after you evaporate will help you control the taste of the dish. Once you’ve added the roux, season with salt and pepper to taste.
Make your own mushroom stock (optional)
The mushroom stock adds flavor to the meatballs and isn’t entirely necessary to make from scratch, but, if you have the ingredients, a worthwhile addition to the recipe. You can swap out any store-bought veggie stock if you don’t have mushroom stock on hand.
While the meatball mixture chills in the freezer, soak the porcini in one cup of hot water for 15 minutes, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Reserve the liquid and the porcini separately. Next, place all ingredients except for the salt in a small stock pot or saucepan. Cover with the remaining three cups of water and bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer. Add the strained liquid from the rehydrated porcini mushrooms. If necessary, add salt to taste.
Save the mushroom stock for the mushroom gravy and compost the solids to reduce waste.
Plate and serve
To serve, plate meatballs over your chosen starch (polenta is pictured above but your favorite noodles or rice will do the trick too). Smother the meatballs and polenta or noodles in mushroom gravy and enjoy with a glass of wine or favorite beer. Bon appetit!