29 September 2012

The Deviltry of Seitan: A Meat Alternative

Part of being vegetarian is not eating meat; well a big part. This leads to creativity and seeking out other sources of protein and nutrition. Instead of mindlessly reaching in the fridge for something to smash into my face, I have to be more aware. I have felt the little lazy voice in me urging me to eat chicken nuggets or shirk my commitment.

It was really bad one day. I had a smoothie for brekky, orange for snack and salad for lunch. I was really cold and needed calories. I wanted to get some chicken nuggets or a burger or french fries. I found a grilled cheese from a downtown restaurant. Unfortunately, that sandwich was $9. I felt so violated. Nine dollars!! For a 4.5 inch fucking grilled cheese. On a brighter note, it filled up me up and I wasn't hungry or thinking of making bad choices. 

So far being vegetarian is a stream of consciousness. Being aware of food and nutritional needs, exercise and water intake. Its really amazing what good nutrition and exercise can do for you body odors, sleep, skin, energy levels, general demeanor,and weight. 

And now for the creativity of the meatless-Seitan. Odd word. Pronounced as say-tahn. I just can't bring myself to pronounce it like that. I call it see-tan. I've made it a total of 3 times, by no means a professional at what I do. Its a blank canvas for spices, seasonings, shape, use, etc. A little overwhelming. 

The basis of it is wheat gluten which is very high in vitamins, minerals and protein. I have made it the simmer method twice and prefer it. In the dry ingredients you can add any spice combo that compliments a certain meat flavor you are trying to achieve. Ie: chicken- thyme, sage, basil, white pepper, etc. Liquid smoke  (2-4 tsp)  will cover the faint wheaty taste but isn't necessary. If you are trying to make mock sausage the liquid smoke is clutch.  The key is to Never ever EVER ever BOIL it. I baked it once in parchment and foil. The recipe called for tomato paste. The end result still makes me nauseous to this day. It was hard like pepperoni but tasted like dried out tomato sauce. *gag*. We tried to make chicken marsala out of it and that was a huge nauseating mistake. 

I'd be willing to try the steam method or the crock pot method. Its nothing to be intimidated about. Just make sure you have an hour available for the seitan to simmer. 
http://www.theppk.com/2009/11/homemade-seitan/ <-- font=""> Has an excellent seitan recipe that I follow.

1 cup vital wheat gluten flour
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 cup cold vegetable broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated on a microplane grate

For the simmering broth: 
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
1/4 cup soy sauce

Fill a stock pot with the water, broth and soy sauce, cover and bring to a boil.
In the mean time, in a large bowl mix together gluten and yeast.  In a smaller bowl mix together broth, soy sauce, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. Pour the wet into the dry and combine with a wooden spoon until most of the moisture has absorbed and partially clumped up with the dry ingredients. Use your hands and knead for about 3 minutes, until it’s an elastic dough. Divide into 3 equal pieces with a knife and then knead those pieces in your hand just to stretch them out a bit. Let rest until the broth has come to a full boil.
Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer. Add the gluten pieces and partially cover pot so that steam can escape. Let simmer for 45 minutes, turning occasionally. Turn the heat off and take the lid off, let sit for 15 minutes.
Remove from broth and place in a strainer until it is cool enough to handle. Slice and use as desired.

If you feel inclined, can bread it and bake it or fry it.