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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Seitan is My Motor

Don't give me credit for this one.  My sister came up with the little spin on Cake's "Satan is My Motor."  It's our future plan to make shirts and wear them during a 5k in the future.

You may be asking yourself, "what the hell is seitan."  Well, today is your lucky day! (If you don't have a gluten allergy, of course.)  Seitan is a meat substitute made from wheat gluten.  Often it is called "wheat meat."  The great thing about seitan is that it soaks up flavor beautifully.  I especially love using it in stews, stroganoffs and curries.  If you see "mock duck" on a menu, that's seitan!  While you can purchase packaged seitan at the store, it's much more fun and cost efficient to make your own.  Only a few simple ingredients, but careful because it's tricky to get the right consistency.  I find the more you knead it the better it gets.  Also, when you simmer in the broth, you must be careful to keep the heat low otherwise it gets spongy and falls apart.  You can make seitan with just wheat gluten and flour, but I like Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero's Simple Seitan recipe for Veganomican.  I used 2/3 of the seitan and made Portobello Pepper Steak Stew.  I love stews in the winter, and this one packs a punch.  Spicy, savory, and filling!  This will warm you right up!  The textures of the portobellos coupled with the seitan make this a crowd pleaser with any meat eater.  This is from Isa's Appetite for Reduction, which is quickly becoming my favorite cookbook. 

Simple Seitan
Makes 1 pound

1 cup vital wheat gluten flour
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/2 cup cold vegetable broth
1/4 cup soy sauce (or tamari)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated on a microplane grater

Broth:
8 cups cold water plus 3 vegetable bouillon cubes, or 4 cups broth plus 4 cups water

Mix together the gluten flour and yeast in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, mix together the veggie broth, soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic.  Pour the wet into the dry and stir with a wooden spoon until most of the moisture has been absorbed and the wet ingredients are partially clumped up with the dry ingredients.  Use your hands to knead the mixture for about 3 minutes, until the dough is elastic.  Divide with a knife into three equal pieces and then knead those pieces in your hand just to stretch them out a bit.  (Now I disagree with her method.  I say, have at it!  Knead it for as long as you can to try to get as many air bubbles out as you can.  This makes for a firmer, "meatier" texture.  Otherwise it's just too spongy and you risk it falling apart when boiling.)



Prepare the broth:
Fill a stockpot with water, bouillon cubes, and soy sauce and add the wheat gluten pieces.  Cover and bring to a boil but watch carefully; you don't want it to boil for very long or the outside of the seitan will be spongy.  Try to catch it as soon as it boils and then lower the heat as low as it will go so that it's at a low simmer.

Partially cover the pot so that steam can escape and let simmer for an hour, turning the seitan occasionally. Turn off the heat and take the lid off; let sit for 15 minutes.

Remove from the broth and place in a strainer until it's cool enough to handle.  It is now ready to be sliced up and used.  If you have extra seitan, store in the cooking liquid in a tightly covered container or freeze in a freezer bag.



 

Portobello Pepper Steak Stew
Serves 4

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups seitan, sliced thinly
1 red onion, slice into 1/4 inch half-moons
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced in 1/4 inch strips
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced in 1/4 inch strips
A big pinch of salt
2 portobello caps, slice into 1/4 inch strips
3 cloves garlic (double it!)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed (you can do this with your chef's knife, turn sideways and press down firmly)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (double it for a spicier kick!)
Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat a large, heavy-bottomed (preferably cast-iron) skillet over medium-high heat.  Saute the seitan in 1 teaspoon of the oil for about 5 minutes, until browned.  Remove the seitan from the pan and set aside.

Saute the onions and peppers and a pinch of the salt in the remaining oil until the peppers are slightly blacked, about 10 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, garlic, fennel seeds, thyme, remaining salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper, and saute for 3 more minutes, until the mushrooms have released their moisture.

Add the red wine and bring to a boil over higher heat.  The liquid should reduce in about 3 minutes.

In a measuring cup, mix the flour into the broth to dissolve into a slurry.  Lower the heat a bit and add the slurry to the pan.  Mix well and let thicken for a minute.  Add the seitan back to the pan and let the stew thicken further; in about 5 minutes it should be slightly thickened but smooth and luscious.
Taste for salt and seasoning and serve.

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