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 ...


  1. I use TVP as well as Hard Tofu in my seitan recipes.....I too do not like some of the texture and quite by accident found a great way to bring the texture closer to beef. I make sausages, all varieties, my favorites are sweet and spicy Italian, bratwurst and boudin. So when I became a vegetarian, I missed my sausages...so decided to start making Vegan Sausages, I use seitan and tvp or hard tofu....and I use a meat grinder/sausage stuffer to stuff them in vegan skins.......I found that using the meat grinder and running the seitan through a couple of times gives it a meaty texture....so now I use my "NO MEAT" on all my seitan before I shape it. BTW I picked up a meat grinder/sausage stuffer at Harbor Freight for less then $40.00

  2. What a great idea - I hadn't thought of putting the seitan through a grinder. I have a Kitchen Aid mixer with the grinder and sausage stuffer attachments which I've only ever used at work for, well, meat. I will definitely give it a try at home. Thank you!

    If you would be willing to share some sausage recipes, especially the boudin, I'd be oh-so grateful!

  3. I have been trying to experiment with seitan. Do you put it through the grinder beforee or after you cook it?

    And I make the no knead type. The kneaded came out stringy for me.

  4. I made this last night. The only difference is I am oil free so I left out the evoo.

    I have been looking for a good seitan recipe that is better than the stuff I make. I, too, do the seitan rolls.

    The seitan came out great and satisfied my craving for something soild like meat. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Yay, I'm pleased! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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  11. I've been vegan for several months now and upon the discovery of seitan, I've been trying to perfect it to my taste. I'm eager to give this a try as soon as I get my hands on some VWG. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Worst experience ever... This receipe is not detailed enough for a beginner to get it right. Had to throw away the entire mixture and start over. Ended up with a pretty expensive roast beef :-/

    1. I have this in the oven as I type, I havent tasted it yet. It smells wonderful but I have to agree with this poster. The directions were a mess. When do I add the mushrooms to the gluten? You tell me to knead with my fingers tips but had not said to add liquid. That half cup of liquid from the mushrooms/liquid seasoning was a far cry from what I needed to even begin to get it to come together....I added extra veg broth. It wanted to crumble so I did some flax with water to replace a couple eggs which bound it wonderfully. I would love to see the directions written out properly. I am a new vegetarian so I need each step. I cant wait to try this! My mouth is watering from the smell!

  13. I realize this is an older post, for the 2 cups of vital wheat gluten, how much water do you add, making for the 1st time, also have you ever just baked it, i dont have a cheesecloth