Monday, February 1, 2010

Seitan Chicken - It's What's for Dinner

When my husband's under the weather, he turns into a very small, needy child who reminds me every couple minutes, "I'm sick! I'm sick!" When I'm confronted with a needy sick child-husband, I can't do anything other that suggest, "Uh, chicken noodle soup?" This means I can: 1) spend time away from the sick one while I make the soup, which I do not so much because I'm mean as because he's exceedingly cranky when ill, and 2) get credit for being such a caring person that I make chicken noodle soup from scratch. There's a reason why I have two large retrievers, but no actual human children. So I spent an hour this afternoon making some seitan chicken noodle soup, which isn't really a big feat by any means, and I started thinking about much how seitan chicken has become a staple part of our diet.

I'm beginning to see why Americans eat more chicken than any other kind of meat. It's so ... easy. And versatile. And off the menu, if you're a vegetarian. I think this simplicity is why I've been whipping up batch after batch of seitan chicken breasts lately ... to make it is even easier (and somewhat less time consuming) than if I had to get dressed, get into the car, and drive to the grocery store for some Perdue, were that my wont.

Seriously, though, seitan chicken is so simple. It takes about three minutes, plus a little time on the stove during which many other things (the rest of the chicken noodle soup prep, putting together shelves from Target, playing with the dogs in the frozen tundra that is our backyard) can be accomplished.

I made a double batch last time, which then became Southern Fried Chicken Tenders and Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Brie and Caramelized Onions ... something casual, something all fancy.

The tenders were easy: cut into pieces, then bread as you could any nugget (seasoned flour, followed by beaten eggs, followed by panko breadcrumbs, followed by a healthy bath in boiling oil). This is pretty much the same way I've made seitan buffalo wings, skipping the eggs and panko. I lightly coated the seitan pieces in flour and deep fried them before tossing the batch in a bowl with buffalo sauce ... which is, by the way, disgustingly unhealthy, even to me. (Hey, I may not be a super healthy eater, but I'm a fan of using delectable fats like really good cold pressed olive oil, truffle oil and European butter ... but all in normal quantities. The sauce for buffalo wings actually makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong and unsavory, as if I should be checking into a sleazy motel to eat them ... but maybe that's just my own issue I should work on.) Anyway, it's this: half a cup of melted butter, half a cup of Frank's hot sauce. Voilà! Heart attack on a plate ... even before you factor in that bacon ranch dip, packets of which are now available from J&D's, the folks that gave us baconnaise.

For the stuffed breasts, I made the stuffing while the seitan cooked. I caramelized onions in olive oil, then stirred in about a third of a small wheel of brie, sans rind (which went straight into my mouth) and some fresh oregano. All of this got thrown in the fridge for dinner, when I slit the breasts, filled them with stuffing, and sautéed them for for a few minutes on each side, till they were browned nicely. Accompanied by wild mushroom couscous, spinach and a sauce suprême with mushrooms, the stuffed breasts were a big hit.

So, the point is this: seitan chicken is super easy. Seitan chicken is super fast. Seitan chicken is super versatile. And, seitan chicken is super yummy. Here's the recipe:

Stir together, then kneed for a couple minutes:

1 cup vital wheat gluten
4 T vegetarian chicken bouillon powder
2 tsp garlic granules
1 cup water

Cut it into four pieces (for breasts) and add to:

4 cups water
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 T vegetarian chicken bouillon powder
2-3 tsp poultry seasoning

Bring it close to a boil, then reduce and simmer, covered, until the liquid is absorbed. Flip the breasts over every so often, making sure they aren't sticking. And that's that.

This makes what looks like an enormous amount of seitan because the pieces swell up in the pan while they cook. But, I've found, it doesn't last long afterwards. I've halved it when I just wanted something quick for dinner that night, but I wished afterwards I hadn't ...

*simmering liquid*

*seitan chicken breasts taking up the entire pan*

*yummy, easy dinner: stuffed with basil & mozzarella, served over orecchiette*