Saturday, July 21, 2012

Southern Fried Seitan!

I said I'd restart this blog and then I didn't do a thing. Well, actually, I did lots of things: pack boxes, store them in a storage unit, rejoin the gym (ahem), watch the entire first season of Game of Thrones, visit the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, canoe part of the Connecticut River ... just nothing to do with the blog. Oops. Better late than never, though.

So ...

I gave in. I got some of those Bragg Liquid Aminos. I'm still not entirely sold. I got it to try and to use as a substitute for soy sauce. Yeah, yeah: it's non-GMO and has all those healthy amino acids. But, for someone like me who is super-super-sensitive to sodium, it might be better to stick with low-sodium soy sauce. (Bragg has, as far as I can figure, 960 mg of sodium per tablespoon whereas low-sodium soy sauce has 575.) But since I now own this bottle and have to do something with it, I figured I'd use it, as so many have suggested, in the simmering liquid for seitan.

I'm feeling very Southern again today and I'm having friends over this afternoon for some champagne sipping and relaxing in the overgrown backyard (one thing I haven't done is yard work), so I figured I'd make some Southern fried seitan.

Mix and briefly knead:

1 c vital wheat gluten
1 c cold water

Bring to a boil:

4 c water
1/2 c nutritional yeast
4 T Bragg Liquid Aminos (yep, there they are!)
2 t onion powder
1 1/2 t sage
1/2 t white pepper
1 t thyme
2 bay leaves

Add the briefly kneaded vital wheat gluten to the liquid, reduce and cover. Cook at a simmer, stirring frequently, for about an hour, until most of the liquid is reduced. Remove from heat and let the seitan cool in the remaining liquid.


I'm not vegan, so I'm using milk and eggs for the "fried chicken" part, but I don't see why you couldn't easily replace that with soy milk and egg replacer. (And here I'd like to give a thumbs up to Bob's Red Mill Farm Egg Replacer. I got some the other day to make a vegan cake for a friend, and although I've seen a few reviews in which people said it tasted odd to them -and one, at least to me, odd review in which the reviewer complained it made awful scrambled eggs [because I never would have expected to use a powdered egg substitute to make scrambled eggs] - I found it worked perfectly.

Mix together an egg, a cup of buttermilk (add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to the milk, stir and let thicken for about five minutes to make buttermilk) and as much hot sauce as you like - the more, the better. In a ziploc bag (easy cleanup and yes, I do wash and reuse them), mix a cup of self-rising flour and whatever spices you like; I chose pepper, salt, paprika, cayenne, rosemary, garlic, and onion powder, but whatever floats your boat (or you have in the pantry). Dredge the seitan pieces in the egg mixture, then toss with the flour mixture. Dredge again in egg and toss with the flour mixture again to get a really crispy, layered coating. Fry in hot oil, drain, and eat.

Somehow it turned into a Southern food extravaganza, so in addition to the fried seitan, we had collard greens, biscuits with sausage gravy, deviled eggs and fried pimento cheese balls. I really was going to take pictures, but guests came early and, what with all that packing, I was hungry, so it all got eaten before I could take a photo of the side dishes.

I guess it's good I rejoined the gym ...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Back? Back!

I've missed my little blog, and now that I'm in the process of selling my restaurant, perhaps it is time to revisit it. After all, I've already begun playing around with new business ideas and I need some helpful folks to bounce ideas off of, if y'all would be so kind.

Now this idea is newly born and as-yet pretty undeveloped, but I'm thinking food truck.

Food truck in New Orleans, to be specific.

Five years in the snow and ice-filled (negative 23! negative 23!) winters of Vermont have pushed our attention towards warmer climes, and you can't get much warmer than New Orleans in the summer. Yep, we're trading those -23 degree winters for 101 degree summers. Of course, I grew up in Memphis, so I'm fine, but I am a little worried that the husband and dogs will melt. AC. We'll have lots of AC.

But back to seitan ...

I don't really want to spring into a new restaurant. Frankly, I don't think I ever want to own a restaurant again. On the one hand, it can be a very gratifying experience to cook your own creations for appreciative customers. On the other, though, the owner has so much other crud to deal with that she barely has time to cook, let alone plan menus. But I do love cooking ...

But what about a food truck? I know there are some veggie food trucks (although, I think, not in NOLA), but I'm wondering about a specifically seitanic food truck. Menu ideas (since it would be in NOLA and all) that come to mind include thinly sliced seitan roast beef po-boys with debris gravy, seitan fried chicken po-boys with creole mustard, muffalettas with seitan pepperoni, salami, ham, Swiss and provolone cheeses, and olive salad, and fried macaroni and cheese.

So, if you're reading this and would be interested in seeing those recipes (and similar) be developed, let me know and take a moment (please!) to give me feedback! And if it ever comes to fruition, well, come on down and have some foodies!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Farewell, little blog!

I've been neglecting this little blog, and I realized that it would be a kindness to put it out of its lonely misery rather than to continue that neglect. With the new restaurant, I just don't have the time to fit posting in between all my other jobs as chef, dog walker, house cleaner, laundress, driveway shoveler (because it seems it will never, ever stop snowing here), and cocktail lounge chanteuse.

If you're in the southern New England area, though, please stop by and enjoy some veggie cuisine:

And thank you all, very much indeed, for your time and encouragement!


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pomegranate-Glazed Duck Breast Tacos

Poor little blog ... so neglected. I've been so very, very busy with the restaurant - and it won't even be open for another week and a half! I'll try to make an effort, though; it's not like I won't be working with food every day.

So, since the restaurant IS opening up very, very soon, I thought I would take advantage of my husband as guinea pig and try out some specials that have come to mind. Thus, tonight's dinner and I give you Spicy Pomegranate-Lacquered Duck Breast Tacos.

I love the Mah Wah duck breast especially for its texture, although it's pretty good all-around. But perhaps because I never ate a lot of duck, I rarely do much with it - and so this was a perfect opportunity.

My restaurant is Mexican, but I'm staying as far away from overstuffed burritos, refried beans and numbered platters as possible. There are no piñatas hanging from the ceiling, nor any sombreros on the walls. Its a place that calls out for some specials like, well, the spicy pomegranate-lacquered duck breast tacos.

These were slightly time consuming, but really only in terms of marinating. They turned out to be absolutely delicious, though; the spiciness of the peppers matches the sweetness of the pomegranate perfectly. Plus, they're a great excuse to whip up some queso fresco, which I love. So, totally worth a try - yummy!

Spicy Pomegranate-Lacquered Duck Breast Tacos (serves two starving folks or four not)

1 May Wah duck breast, defrosted
1 16 oz. bottle POM pure pomegranate juice
1 heaping tsp. sugar
1 poblano pepper, roasted then peeled, deseeded and sliced
2 serrano or jalapeño peppers, roasted then peeled, deseeded and sliced
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
olive oil

small corn tortillas
simple guacamole or avocado puree
queso fresco

Thinly slice/shred the duck breast and put it in a bowl; add pomegranate juice and allow to marinate, stirring occasionally, for several hours. Meanwhile, prepare the peppers. Roast them either under the broiler or over the gas, then wrap in plastic and cool before slipping off the skin (and washing out the seeds). Slice and set aside. Slice the onion.

Drain the duck into a saucepan and set aside; add sugar to the juice and, over high heat, boil to reduce till you have about a quarter cup of syrup. Set aside.

Heat oil in a pan; add onions and allow to cook for about three minutes, then add peppers and duck. Over high heat, saute till beginning to crisp. Pour atop reserved syrup. Reduce heat, stir and simmer about three more minutes. Remove from heat.

In another pan or on a griddle, heat a small amount of oil and then add corn tortillas. Let them cook till bubbling and browning, flipping halfway.

To plate, place the duck mixture in the middle of the tortilla; top with avocado puree and queso fresco. Serve. Go back for more.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pâté en Croûte ... and it's vegan

Years ago, my first "fancy" culinary job was as the garde manger in a French-American restaurant, which was perhaps a bit ironic for a vegetarian but really good training in the "how not to be bothered by all sorts of innards" part of cooking for a living. Charcuterie seems to be one of those newly sexy culinary trends, but it wasn't so popular then, which might be why I got the job. I made lots of sausages and lots of terrines and lots of pâtés. Anything that called for forcemeat and a cornichon or three for garnish, well, there I was.

Those aren't dishes I've regularly thought about since then. Oh, veggie sausages are yummy and useful, but most veggie pâtés bore me. They always seem to be made from cannellini beans or red lentils that have been pureed with some herbs. They're good ... they're just not exciting to me. Plus, they're really not what I think of as "pâté." They tend more towards the hummus/bean dip side of the scale; they are to pâté what the lentil loaf of yesteryear's health food store vegetarian meal was to beef wellington.

Then the other day I discovered, some months after the fact, that PETA held a contest for the best vegan version of foie gras, with a prize of $10K. I rather wish I'd known about this *before* the contest ended, but at any rate, it started me thinking about the possibilities for vegetarian forcemeats. I decided that I wanted to make a traditional-yet-vegetarian pâté en croûte, no lentils involved.

As it happens, I needed a dish for a gathering with friends, so despite the fact that I should be cleaning the house and baking an enormous number of Christmas cookies for various destinations, I spent the morning making this, instead:

Now, one of my friends is vegan, so this pâté en croûte is vegan, not simply vegetarian. The only real difference, however, is that I used Earth Balance shortening (which, by the way, reminds me a lot of lard) instead of butter in the pâte brisée and for sautéing. You could use either one; I'd probably use butter myself, but that's just my taste.

This was a first attempt, so it needs a bit more work. It tasted good, but didn't turn out exactly as I wanted, that is, exactly like a meaty pâté en croûte. Next time, I'm going to use puff pastry rather than pie dough, and add more aspic to bind the filling. I've no earthly idea what to make for Christmas dinner, so perhaps I'll give this idea another go and post the changes next week. At any rate, this was a good starting point, so here 'tis:


1 c "chicken" stock
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 vegetarian duck breast
4 T butter or shortening, divided
2 large shallots, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c marsala wine, divided
1 1/2 lb mixed mushrooms (I used oyster and cremini, since that's what I had), chopped
1/4 c chopped curly leaf parsley
3 T fresh thyme
3 T fresh rosemary, minced
1/3 c panko breadcrumbs
the juice from one large lemon
salt and ground black pepper

1 recipe pâte brisée (or puff pastry)

1 c "chicken" stock
1 t agar

* Bring the first cup of stock to a boil and add the porcini. Set aside to soak about 20-30 minutes.

* Chop the duck breast and toss in a bowl with 1/4 cup wine. Set aside.

* Melt 2 T butter or shortening over medium heat; add shallots and garlic, sautéing till soft and slightly colored, about 5 minutes. Remove to a large bowl. Wipe out pan and add remaining butter or shortening. When it's melted, add fresh mushrooms. Lower heat to low-medium and sweat them about 8-10 minutes. Turn heat up to high, add remaining wine and cook till dry (only maybe 2 minutes). Remove from heat.

* After cooling slightly, put the mushrooms in a food processor and whirl till very fine. Add to bowl with shallot mixture. Add the marinated duck breast, the herbs, panko, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

* Set oven to 350 F. Meanwhile, combine second cup of stock and the agar in a small sauce pan. Let it rest about five minutes, then bring to the boil. Lower heat and simmer another five minutes. Then, add to the mushroom-duck mixture, combining well. [Note: I did not use the entire cup, but I wish I had.]

* Line a pâte mold with the pastry dough, overlapping the sides a little bit and saving a piece for the top. Add filling, making sure it's even, then replace top piece of pastry and turn the edges over to seal. If you're feeling artsy, decorate it with additional pieces of dough. [I didn't have enough leftover, but really - it makes the whole thing look so much better.]

* Bake for 50 minutes and chill for a few hours before serving. Don't forget the cornichons!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pollo Fritto alla Toscana

Pollo Fritto alla Toscana!

First of all, I realize I really need to change the description of this blog. Seitan, I love you so, but I've been cheating on you with other vegetarian meats ... It began innocently enough, with a little TVP here and a little tofu there, but lately, I must admit, I've been seeing a lot of (gulp) store bought veggie meats. I'm sorry; sometimes, you're just too time-consuming. And sometimes, I'm out of ingredients.

And it happened again last night, again with the Mah Wah veggie chicken legs. I really, really adore those things. They're great barbecued and make absolutely divine Southern fried chicken, both vegan and vegetarian versions. (I made a vegan version for a party some months ago; the meat-eating guests couldn't believe they weren't real chicken!) At some point soon, I'm going to have to try them in a stew. And I will have to ... I've got a freezer in my basement that's full of them. But, yesterday being Sunday, which often means Italian for dinner, I decided to try them fried in a slightly different style, namely Tuscan.

Everyone loves fried chicken, right? It's not a dish we Americans generally associate with Italian cuisine, but maybe we should consider it. There are a few versions I've come across, the main difference being that some use breadcrumbs and others don't. And the main difference between the American and Italian versions seems to be the marinade. And time.

It's time-consuming. Well, in terms of the marinade. If you want something NOW, go for Southern fried chicken (unless, of course, you're one of those people who marinate the chicken in buttermilk overnight ... but seeing as this isn't *real* chicken, you don't need to do that).

But, these were lovely - a nice change and seemed to be a good bit less greasy. And, as I'm currently finding out, just as good served cold for the next day's lunch. Better, actually.

The marinade gives it a light, fresh flavor. I probably should have made these in the summer, something to take to a picnic in the park along with a cannellini bean salad and a bottle of Chianti. But, as I sit here and look out at the trees, bare in the 25 degree weather, I can plan that picnic and enjoy this practice run.

Chicken resting in the marinade ... don't they look creepily like real chicken?


3/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 T each: minced parsley, oregano, rosemary
2 T minced garlic
1 t kosher salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper


12 May Wah chicken legs or enough seitan for four people
all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 t salt
1/2 t ground white pepper
vegetable oil for frying

Prepare marinade and add chicken. Let it rest, turning pieces regularly, in a large bowl or casserole dish, for at least two hours.

Prepare batter: flour with salt and pepper in one dish, beaten eggs in another. Let excess marinade drip off each piece before adding it to first the flour, then shake off the excess and dip the piece in the egg. Meanwhile, allow oil to come to temperature (about 350) in a large frying pan - you'll want about a 1/2 inch depth. Carefully add the pieces to the hot oil, cooking for a few minutes on each side. Place on paper towels to absorb excess oil and serve.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Beetroot Ravioli and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

So I'm trying to be a little healthier, which means I thought it might be a nice idea to incorporate a few more vegetables in my diet. In general, though, I don't really like vegetables so much. Or maybe I just don't like "healthy" (read: boring) vegetable recipes.

I do, however, really like beets and brussels sprouts, which is why, though there is no seitan anywhere in this meal, I'm posting this entry.

I had these ravioli on the menu of my old restaurant as a small plate, along with a pea puree and pea green salad, which means that serving ten of them for dinner made me feel very decadent. (We all have our vices.) The sweetness and the soft texture of the ravioli went extremely well with the crispy saltiness of the brussels sprouts, so if I ever put the ravioli back on a menu, it will be in this combination, or something very similar.

At any rate, if you are wary of beets and brussels sprouts or have only experienced them in horrible cafeteria-style dishes, I highly suggest you give these two recipes a go. (If you're reading this, Mama, this means you.) They're very simple, but most of all, absolutely amazing. And mostly vegetable. Probably not so healthful, but not too bad, either ...

Beetroot Ravioli

one bunch beets
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
3 T panko breadcrumbs
zest of one lemon
sea salt and cracked pepper
wonton wrappers

4 T butter
2 t poppy seeds

Wrap beets in tinfoil and bake in a 400 F oven for an hour. Allow to cool, then peel. Grate the beets by hand or in a food processor, then add the ricotta, breadcrumbs, lemon zest, and salt and pepper.

Laying out a few wonton wrappers at a time, place a heaping teaspoon of the beetroot filling on each. Fold into a triangle, first wetting edges with water so they'll stick better. Place them on a sheet pan or plate lined with wax paper - careful not to overlap or they'll stick to each other if you're refrigerating them before cooking.

Bring a pot of water to the boil and add ravioli, no more than a dozen at a time; cook for about two minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saute pan and stir in poppyseeds. When the ravioli are done, carefully lift them out of the water with a slotted spoon (note: these are delicate and do NOT do well swished around or tossed into a colander) and gently toss with the butter. Plate them and add a little freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Okay, this is too easy to be so delicious, but there you are. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Trim brussels sprouts and halve (or quarter, if they're on the large side). Toss with olive oil, kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Turn out onto a sheet pan, spread them out a little and roast, shaking the pan once or twice, for about 35 minutes. Add a little bit more salt when they're done. They're amazing: try them.