Saturday, January 23, 2010

Seitan Sliders - This Time, with Recipe!

"Seitan Sliders" seems to be the term that, more than any other, brings google-searchers to this blog, so I've been feeling a bit guilty that I've got pictures and some bragging, but no actual recipe. I've been reminded that I need to rectify that. So, since today is again football day in America (as I've also been reminded, several times) and I'd better be rustling up some yummy foodies for today's games.

seitan slider stack

I went to two grocery stores (in two states, no less) looking for slider buns, but they seem to have disappeared. I don't know if Pepperidge Farm took them off the market (although their website still lists them) or if there was a run on slider buns in New England, maybe in time for today's championship games or some giant cocktail party I didn't hear about. Anyway, I was forced to buy dinner rolls instead, which are really pretty much the same. Once you steam them, they're almost exactly the same. And on the plus side, they're square like Krystal and White Castle buns. Now if only I had little paper boxes saying "The Vegetarian Carnivore" in bright letters ...

Steaming: that's the real secret to making seitan sliders that are just like their meaty cousins. Steam the buns, I mean, not the seitan. (Although I think Krystal and White Castle "steam-grill" the meat as well, which might account for it's gray color.) And make sure you've got some finely minced white onion and hamburger pickle chips on hand. And yellow mustard.

Since we were eating these as our dinner, I also made some collard greens and butternut squash fries, even though part of me just wanted to scarf down a half-dozen sliders on their own.

So, slice the seitan and sear it in a pan before assembling your sliders. Then, yum!!

This is a really tender seitan roast, so it works best sliced for sandwiches, as pan-seared steaks or baked in puff pastry for wellington. I don't think it would hold up as well for stir-fries, although I have not tried that ... I just suspect it might fall apart. On the other hand, it marinates well, so maybe I'm wrong. Onto the next experiment, then ... Next time: Chinese Pepper Steak!

Dry ingredients:

2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic granules

Wet ingredients:

1 14oz box firm tofu
1/3 cup water
1-2 tsp Marmite
1 Tbsp vegetable stock paste - I like Better than Bouillon
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce - Annie's Naturals is vegetarian
1/4 cup steak sauce - fantastic: Good Housekeeping Good Food Mushroom Marsala
2 Tbsp ketchup - I like Heinz organic
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp browning liquid - I like Kitchen Bouquet
few shakes liquid smoke

Boiling liquid:

10 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup red wine
1 Tbsp browning liquid
several shakes each liquid smoke and Worcestershire sauce

1) Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, or if possible, a KitchenAid mixer

2) Blend together wet ingredients and add to dry. Mix together and kneed by hand, or if you have a mixer, allow it to kneed for several minutes. Let it rest for a few minutes while you put together the boiling liquid. Before adding, divide the seitan into four pieces and wrap each ball in cheesecloth or muslim. Tie with kitchen string.

3) Boiling liquid should be cold to start, so blend together but don't heat until you put the bundled seitan in. Bring to a boil, immediately turn down to very low and let simmer for an hour. Towards the end, preheat the oven to 325.

4) Remove the seitan from its cheesecloth and place in an oiled pyrex dish. Add a little of the liquid (not too much, maybe half a cup to a cup), cover with foil and place in oven for an additional 45 minutes to an hour. Turn occasionally.

Some people store their seitan in its cooking liquid, but I just toss these in a ziploc bag, sans liquid, and they keep for about a week in the fridge.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

pizza, or, the food of the gods

Okay, so there's no seitan in this post. No meat substitutes of any kind, actually. Just pizza. And a shameless plug for Price Chopper, which surprises me even as I type.

Pizza might possibly be, hands down, my most favorite ever food. It's just ... perfect. Good pizza, anyway. We left Brooklyn for a rural New England town a couple years ago, which significantly limited my choice of pizza. Somewhat surprisingly, this town has more pizza restaurants than any other kind ... but there's no comparison. For starters, most of the pizzerias here sell what I've heard called Greek style pies: thicker, oilier crusts. I'm a thin crust kind of girl; I like hand-stretched, thin-as-possible crusts, chewy rather than oily. But more importantly, most of them here, well, suck. They just aren't any good. And that makes me sadder than it probably should ... or not. It is pizza.

We were directed by a friend to try Pizzeria X here, assured that it was far superior. We ordered a margherita pizza and baked ziti, of which I am also quite fond. With anticipation, I opened the boxes. This pizza crust was too perfectly circular, creepily round and pale. It looked like cardboard. It tasted like cardboard. The sauce was tomato paste, and the cheese was plasticky, flavorless and, well, not actually discernible as cheese. As for the baked ziti - it was an overcooked lump of penne pasta with more of the same cheese melted atop. It had formed a solid sort of cheese crust (without being crusty ... more of its plasticine characteristics, I suppose) so that when I put my fork into it, the entire mass lifted up as one piece. I started to cry. I felt silly, sitting outside a pizzeria crying over bad food, but the whole thing was just so depressing.

Obviously, we never again went to Pizzeria X (and also found out that it isn't so much that my friend liked their food so much as she liked the guy who runs the place). There are better places here, and we order from them occasionally, but I cannot shake my feeling of disappointment. I always want it to be better than it is, but it isn't

So here's the shameless plug for Price Chopper. On a whim, I snagged a couple bags of their fresh pizza dough, thinking that it would probably be okay if not particularly good. I was wrong: Price Chopper fresh pizza dough is fantastic. How, I don't know, but it is.

I've tried making dough at home before and never been satisfied. I couldn't get the crust as thin as I'd like, plus it seemed to lack the tang that good pizza dough has. But, this dough (and it does also come in whole wheat for you healthier folks) is fabulous. It stretches out to paper-thinness: I could see through it as I stretched it and lay it on the pizza wheel. And yummy, oh so yummy! The crust is chewy without being dense, and it has that slight sourness that makes good crusts really good.

I topped it with some pizza sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil and oil cured black olives. I wish I had more, but I was forced to share and so we had no leftovers. But, maybe again tonight ... maybe red onions and feta and seitan sausage, just so I don't forget about seitan for too long.

Oh, pizza. I love you so.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Roast Beef, or More Experiments in Seitan

There's this amazing little hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant in Memphis, TN that makes a barbecued wheat gluten dish I could eat every day. Plus, they sell these little tiny deep-fried egg rolls, each one about the size of my pinky, that you wrap in herbs and lettuce leaves and fiery sriracha before dipping them in the most delectable sauce ... but I digress. The point is, that their barbecued wheat gluten is not only totally, completely and utterly delicious, but also very realistic. The first time I had it, which to be fair was also years ago and the first time I had seitan, my friend and I were so convinced there'd been a mistranslation somewhere in asking for vegetarian food that we kept holding slices up to the light to try to figure out if we'd been slipped some pork or not.

I haven't had breakfast yet, and goodness, I wish I had some of that barbecued wheat gluten right now. Or, I'd happily take a kalebone gyro from Soul Vegetarian in Atlanta. Anyway. I'm still agog over the incredibly realistic variations that can be found in veggie fake meat restaurants. Once, through sheer luck, my friends and I were treated to a seemingly endless parade of fake meat dishes at an all-vegan restaurant in the West Village. Apparently, the kitchen was making them for food photography and the waiter decided that the three of us looked like we should be the recipients of all these (um) free, meat-free meals. We sampled crispy soul chicken nuggets, Mongolian pepper steak, and duck l'orange, but what really impressed me was the salmon steak. Alright, in truth it tasted less like salmon than the other dishes did their meaty namesakes, but it looked just like a salmon steak, down to the crisped skin. And it was rather tasty.

Anyway, all of this is by way saying that there's a wide world of meat substitutes out there and somehow I need to make them. I'm just not sure how.

Sometimes I feel that there are only so many variations on seitan I can try. I'm not a big fan of the "this seitan is Italian 'cause I added oregano and this seitan is Mexican 'cause I added chipotle powder" variations. I mean, they're tasty ... just not too exciting for me. I start to notice the texture more than the flavor in those cases and sigh ...

I keep experimenting with my beefy seitan recipe, trying to reach beefy seitanic perfection, and I started to wonder how tvp would affect it. Some of the beefy seitan recipes I've tried, be they mine or others, have a texture that's almost too smooth for me; it reminds me of steak tartare that's been overly minced, all slippery and, well, a little yuck. How come no one seems to use tvp when making seitan? (Or perhaps the question should be, how come I can't find such a recipe with google?)

So this pondering led to me the most recent experiment, i.e., making some beefy seitan with tvp. I hoped it would add some, well, meatierness.

This turned out ... well, not so much what I had in mind. Don't get me wrong: it tastes rather yummy, although could use a dash of salt (which I forgot). But, I was hoping for something more along the lines of a tenderloin texture and ended up with a very sliceable, firmer seitan ... kind of like a seitan Sunday roast, perfect for a carvery station.

I saved the simmering liquid and reduced it to about a quarter of its original measure. While making dinner, I added in a couple tablespoons of heavy cream and a half tablespoon of butter and allowed it to thicken - delicious sauce!

I sliced the seitan into thick steaks for dinner and sautéed them in a little olive oil and butter before braising them with about half cup (plus) of red wine. I made gratinéed potatoes with brie to go with it - not a meal for those on a diet, I guess!

So here I was, all proud of myself for adding the tvp, and now I think I'd like to try this again sans-tvp, just to see how it turned out with only the mushrooms for texture. It tasted really good - and very meaty - but the search goes on, at least for beefy seitan for steaks.

But, I discovered this morning, while packing B's lunch, that this recipe makes AWESOME roast beef sandwiches. It was tender and sliced easily into thin pieces. I tend to make a couple seitan logs (you know, the variations that get wrapped in foil and baked) each week for his lunch, but I'm not generally happy with the way they slice. On one hand, well, they slice. On the other, they don't slice well. They're too tough. This, however, was real-beef tender. And yummy. So, try it for dinner if you like, but definitely try it for cold roast beef sandwiches ... don't forget the horseradish!

Seitanic Roast Beef

1/2 onion, minced
2 cups mushrooms, whirled in the food processor
small handful dried porcinis, reconstituted and liquid reserved
2 c vital wheat gluten
1/4 c nutritional yeast
1 T garlic powder
2 t browning liquid
1 t liquid smoke
2 t Worcestershire sauce
3 t evoo
1/2 c tvp soaked in 1/2 hot veg broth

Simmering liquid:
5 c vegetable broth
any leftover mushroom liquid
1/4 soy sauce
couple dashes worchestershire and liquid smoke
1/2 c tomato sauce
1/2 red wine

1)Saute onion in olive oil till softened; add mushrooms and sweat over low-medium heat for about twenty minutes, deglazing with balsamic vinegar or red wine
2)Soak tvp in hot vegetable broth, along with a couple dashes of browning liquid
3)Add liquid flavors to reserved mushroom broth - will need a half cup
4) Combine vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, and garlic in bowl; kneed with finger tips to make a kind of stretchy, shredded texture. Add tvp and combine. Carefully add liquid mixture to bind all, but make sure it isn't too soggy.
5) Separate into two pieces; wrap each in muslin or cheesecloth.
6)Add to simmering liquid and, well, simmer for 45.
7) Unwrap, turn into an oiled baking dish and bake, turning occassionally, for about 45 minutes.

Note: AFTER I wrote this, I tried searching once more for a seitan recipe using tvp and, following some sort of cosmic law, one turned up. Vegan Dad did one for a noodles and beef seitan in black bean sauce that sounds very yummy, but very different. I'm really tempted to go make his recipe right now, but since I've already got seitan chicken on the stove as well as the beefy seitan ... could be seitan overload. Maybe tomorrow ...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Seitan Fatback, or Happy New Year 2010!

As a good Southern girl, even if now residing in chilly New England, its pretty much required that I make a big pot of Hoppin' John on New Years' Day. That's black eyed peas and rice to y'all from north of the M-D, and traditionally, eating the dish on the first day of the year is supposed to ensure good luck and good fortune - and even more fortune if paired with greens. I didn't make any last year and 2009 certainly could have been a lot better, so I figured that I'd better not tempt fate for 2010.

The problem, though, is that I've never really liked black eyed peas. On New Year's Day at my parents' house, I'd eat the obligatory spoonful, hoping there was no correlation between the amount of peas ingested and the amount of luck received. They just always seemed so bland, like the dish was missing something. (Sorry, Mama.)

Non-vegetarian Southerners use fatback to flavor their Hoppin' John, but it isn't as if Morningstar Farms or LightLife are turning out veggie fatback alternatives. That's probably only slightly more likely than some veggie chittlins. (And if you don't know what those are, don't ask.) I did buy some veggie sausage, hoping that might suffice, but I couldn't bring myself to use it. Really, I thought, why should I? Wasn't that the whole point of these seitan experiments, to have not a passable substitute or filler, but something better? Damn it, I wanted seitan fatback - so I made it.

This recipe came about through experiment. Last week, I ran out of nutritional yeast, which I use in my seitan chicken recipes, so things just got tossed together. And much to my surprise, it tasted very ... well, hammy. So I made it again, this time leaving the seitan pieces to marinate while we took the dogs for a hike, and the result was seitan fatback - just as porky, salty and fatty-feeling as the real thing. Plus, when it was added to the Hoppin' John, it cooked up wonderfully, adding good texture and flavor.

While the peas cooked, I threw together some cornbread and collard greens, figuring that, if I still didn't like black eyed peas, I'd at least have something. But, luck was already on my side: the seitan fatback made all the difference. Now I see why folks love this dish so much. It must be true: (seitan) bacon makes everything better!


for seitan:
1/2 c vital wheat gluten
1/2 c water
several dashes liquid smoke
onion powder to taste
garlic powder to taste

boiling liquid:
2 c water
1 tsp Better than Bouillon vegetable paste
3 tsp browning liquid
2 tsp veggie Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Marmite
3 Tbsp ketchup

for marinade:
1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 c water
2 tsp sugar
2 T rice vinegar
2 T vegetable oil

Combine seitan ingredients and kneed for three to five minutes. Cut into four pieces. Combine boiling liquid ingredients in a pan with a lid; bring to a boil, add seitan pieces. Lower to a good simmer and cover. Stir every so often and, when its been on the stove for about twenty-five minutes, remove the lid and bring it back to a boil, stirring, until the liquid has reduced to about four tablespoons and is syrupy. If you're going to marinate the seitan, add it now, along with the remaining liquid, to the marinade.

Note: whether you cube or slice the seitan fatback for use in a stew, it will absorb more liquid and increase in size.