Tuesday, October 28, 2008

red gravy

Last Monday night, about a dozen folks and I attended a culinary face off, of sorts, between traditional Italian tomato sauce and New Orleans red gravy. It was food writer, Sara Roahan's idea, since she wrote about the latter in her book Gumbo Tales. Liz Williams hosted the event and prepared both sauces: the tomato sauce was her Sicilian grandmother's recipe and the red gravy was based on her own experience tasting the sauce in other homes. One of the key differences between red gravy and tomato sauce is that the former has a roux to thicken it, while the latter is thickened only by time and lots of simmering. I will omit the comments Liz's grandmother made about red gravy, but tasting the two side by side was illuminating. After tasting the red gravy, one of the diners remarked "This tastes like New Orleans." It had the Hold Trinity (Liz grandmother eschewed green peppers) and the roux and well, yes, there was something familiar in it, even when served over pasta and looking like any other tomato sauce. But the truth is, overall, everyone at the table preferred the tomato sauce. The flavor seemed deeper, richer, which was probably a result of the concentration of all the tomatoes cooking down. And it tasted, well, more Italian. So what does that mean, really? Is one better than the other? No. One tastes like one place and one tastes like the other. And that's pretty cool