So I awoke in Sausalito after our first night on the boat in our new home. A broken windlass. An upset father and skipper. A hungry crew. And an unfortunately poor start to our expedition. However, there is something magical about a truly good plate of food. I grew up learning the power of the plate. The grandparents of the family knew this better than anyone and operated accordingly. My Great Grandma Walker would spend the holidays over an oven throwing a little bit of this and that into her gooseberry and mincemeat pies creating a sensation explosion of cheer enshrouded in flaky grandmother goodness. Mornings can be hard for most, especially hormonal teenagers, but my Grandma Connie and Grandpa Hal woke with the sun. Grandma’s blazing red hair shining in the light through the kitchen window as cut up fresh fruit from the farmer’s market. The room would smell of Jasmine as she brewed tea into an antique oriental teapot. Well, the room would smell of tea and coffee. Grandpa Hal was sip at his espresso while standing over the stovetop preparing the most perfectly prepared cheese omelets. Upon entering the kitchen, I would be greeted with the warmth their love, not just their love for me, but their love for each other could have melted the arctic. Then I would be asked, “one egg or two?”
My Grandma Sharon, on my mom’s side, sees a cough as a call to duty. I lived with my grandmother for six months when I was twelve while the rest of my family stay in Brazil (long story). I remember the first time I got sick while living with her. I had a terrible cold and was missing my family abroad. My throat was dry. Nose dripping down my face. And I had a terrible cough that felt as though my lungs were being ripped out. She called me into the kitchen, put a spoon in my hand and handed me a dish of warm custard freshly prepared. It was so perfect in that moment. It smoothed my throat and filled my with warm fuzzies. From that moment on I would go so far as pretend to be sick to get that custard: feigning coughs and making up symptoms. My grandma must have though I was a hypochondriac.
Her husband, Grandpa Bernie, also had a handle on the power of the plate. In his younger days he used to be a smoke jumper. Him and his team would jump into forest fires and put them out. It was during this time he developed fantastical abilities of country cooking. By the time I was old enough to hold a spatula, he carved for me a little turtle step stool so I could reach the kitchen counter. I was taught that the proper time to flip a pancake is when the air holes that appear in the top of the batter stay open. With patience, he would work with my poor flipping. Only a few pancakes landed on the floor, he told me that was why people had dogs. Then he’d call Bad Dog (yes, that was his name) and the pooch would gobble up the fallen pieces of pancake. He taught me how to make gravy from almost any fat. Then he would poor the delectable creamy goodness over freshly baked biscuits and voilà, happiness served on a plate.
So after our less than perfect start to our new life, I decided to pull a page from Grandpa Bernie’s book.
Nameko Shitake Mushroom Gravy with Herbed Whole Wheat Biscuits
For the Biscuits:
2 cups of Trader Joe’s Multigrain Baking Mix
2 tbsp canola oil
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp herbs de Provence
Preheat oven to 425 degrees or as hot as you can get it. Stir ingredients together until moistened. Turn dough out onto a clean napkin with flour drizzled over it (this makes clean up a whole hell of a lot easier). Knead the dough for about 30 seconds. Roll (I used a wine bottle) or pat down dough until it is about ½ inch thick. Use a mug, cup or biscuit cutter roughly 2 ½ inch in diameter and dipped in flour to cut out the biscuits. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until they are golden brown.
For the Gravy:
1 ½ cup Nameko Mushrooms,* just cut the bottom of the stem of the mushroom off
1 ½ cup Shitake Mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
4 tbsp Butter
1 tbsp Flour
½ tsp White Pepper
½ tsp Smoked Paprika
1 tsp Salt
1 ½ cup Whole Milk
Melt the butter in the large saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and stir them to coat them evenly in butter. Reduce heat to low and cover. Allow to cook for 20 minutes stirring occasionally to ensure the stovetop isn’t play tricks on you (the stove on the boat is named Loki due to his malicious nature and propensity to misbehave). After the mushrooms have begun to caramelize nicely, add the flour, salt and pepper. Stir to ensure even distribution over the mushrooms. Then, add the milk. Bring the heat to high stirring constantly until the mixture begins to boil and thicken.
Turn the stove off (put Loki to sleep). Take two biscuits and cut them in half. Pour the gravy all over the biscuits. Bon Appétit!