Sunday, February 26, 2012

ginger•cinnamon braised seitan

Brock and I hardly ever fight, but one of our more recent altercations was over, of all things, seitan.
He's generally not a picky eater-- I can give him just about anything for dinner and as long as there's a hunk of bread with it he says it's awesome.  But, as I found out, he does not like seitan that's even the least bit spongy...
My first attempt at making seitan for this recipe made a product that was a little spongy.  I thought it was still pretty good. Brock said he liked the flavor, but wasn't into the texture.  
He then brought up (several times throughout the meal) this teriyaki beef his mom used to make when he was a kid, and proceeded to suggest that I make my seitan a little more like that teriyaki beef.  
"That teriyaki beef my mom made when I was a kid was really good..."
"The teriyaki beef was chewier..."  
"You should try to broil this, like my mom did with the teriyaki beef..."  
I took it a little personally and I quickly became a little resentful of the teriyaki beef. 
First of all, this is not teriyaki (teriyaki does not contain cinnamon or red wine).  Second, this is not beef.  Third, I was so excited to use this method of smashing the ginger instead of peeling and chopping it (what a time saver!), and that just wouldn't work as well if I broiled the seitan ala said terriyaki beef.
We agreed to disagree for the time being.   But, this whole thing just made me more determined to stick with my original vision of the recipe and adjust the texture in other ways (I did not set out to make mock teriyaki beef and I was not going to end up with it).
But, attempt two came out even spongier.  It looked like animal brains and reminded me of a cheesy joke I'd heard: 
What do vegan zombies eat?
Ha ha.
These grain-brains went down the disposal without making it to the smashed ginger.
Then came attempt number three, which came out chewy and flavorful.
Even Oliver, the pickiest one in the house, was happily noshing his seitan. Brock was excited about it, too.
And there were no comparisons to other, dissimilar recipes.
And marital accord was restored.

I know this recipe looks a little complicated at first glance, but making the seitan from scratch was really pretty easy for me once I figured out how to adjust the firmness.  And, you can make the seitan ahead of time or even use store bought.*  With pre-made seitan, this comes together quickly and easily...  
And, of course, it's delicious.

the veggies:
-for the broth:

  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups veggie broth
  • 3 TBS soy sauce

-for the seitan:

  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten flour
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup cold veggie broth
  • 3 TBS soy sauce
  • 1 TBS sesame seed oil (or other oil)
  • 1-2 TBS water, if needed

-for braising:
  • 12 to 16 ounces of seitan strips
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar (maple syrup or honey would also work)
  • 1/2 cup seitan broth*
  • 1/2 cup red wine 
  • 1 TBS cooking oil
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 large piece of fresh ginger (about 3 inches long), left un-peeled and smashed with the broad side of a large knife

the love:
-for the broth:
  1. Combine all the broth ingredients in a large sauce pot and bring to a boil.
-for the seitan:
  1. Combine the wheat gluten, garlic powder and ground ginger in a mixing bowl.
  2. In a small mixing bowl or large measuring pitcher, combine the 1/2 cup veggie broth, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until the mixture forms a stiff dough.
  4. Knead for 3 to 5 minutes, kneading in a tablespoon or two of water if the dough is too stiff.**
  5. Divide and stretch the dough into two flat "cutlets", and drop into the boiling broth.
  6. Immediately reduce the heat to a simmer and cover.
  7. Let simmer for 45 minutes.
  8. Cool for awhile on the stove.  If you're not ready to use it yet you can store the seitan in its broth in the fridge.
  9. When you're ready to braise the seitan, drain it, making sure to reserve some of the broth***, then slice it into strips.
-for braising:
  1. Whisk together the agave, seitan broth and wine in a measuring pitcher or small bowl.
  2. Heat a large skillet with oil over medium to medium-high heat.
  3. Add the seitan and saute until it's browned on the edges.
  4. Add the smashed ginger and cinnamon stick and stir for a minute.
  5. Pour some braising sauce into the pan until the seitan is half-covered.
  6. Stir and cook until the sauce is almost all gone, then add more.  Repeat until you've used up all the sauce and the seitan is still just a little saucy (this will take about two or three batches and about 20 minutes).
  7. Remove the cinnamon and ginger and serve over rice or cous cous with a steamed green veggie on the side.


*If you want to use store-bought seitan, skip right to the braising and use 1/4 cup veggie broth, 1/4 cup water, and a tsp of soy sauce for the 1/2 cup seitan broth.
** This is the step where you can adjust the chewy- or spongy-ness of the seitan.  If you want it really chewy like Brock likes it, avoid adding extra water and knead well-- it will be very stiff.  If you want it more tender, add some water and knead a little less-- it will be like a firm bread dough.
***You'll use the reserved seitan broth in the braising sauce, but I also use a half-diluted solution to cook my rice or cous cous to make it more flavorful.

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