Making Seitan for the First Time
I guess you could say that I'm a seitan virgin. I've had it when dining out before and have purchased products that are made with it, but have never made it myself. It's steaming away right now and I'm a little nervous.
Seitan is also called wheat meat. This is probably what we'll start calling it since my kid wants to call it satin and that's driving me berzerk. It's made from wheat gluten and there are a couple of ways you can make it. One is by making a dough out of wheat flour that you rinse and knead until all that's left is the gluten. The other way is to buy vital wheat gluten and mix it with liquid. I chose the latter because Amazon had a pretty good deal on a case of vital wheat gluten. I figure that will give me plenty of chances to screw up. I mean, practice.
More about what seitan is and some recipes here...
I consulted several different recipes and watched oodles of videos on YouTube of folks making it. Some people make the dough by just mixing some liquid and the gluten together very briefly and then shaping it and braising it in broth. Other people knead it for a while after mixing the dry and wet ingredients. Some people steam it in foil or other containers. Some people deep fry it.
I watched a video with Ed Coffin making seitan and he didn't even bother with how much water he put in. He just doused the gluten. Then he kind of swirled it around and "massaged" it until some magic happened and then he fished the pieces out and made them into cutlet type things. That was pretty interesting and I think I'm going to give that method a try next time. It just seemed kind of... easy? And I like easy.
The method I'm using this time is from Viva Vegan!: 200 Authentic and Fabulous Recipes for Latin Food Lovers. This is the Steamed Red Seitan recipe on page 34. I made a few changes like adding onion powder and a little curry and then omitting cumin (more on this later), but otherwise left it the same. The liquid had a great smell and color to it.
It kind of looks like when I used to make sausage out of ground turkey, so it has a meaty look to it.
I formed it into different shaped loaves because I'm not sure what the behavior of this stuff is really like. Have I ever mentioned how very ungourmet I am? I am not a great chef at all. I'm a food enthusiast, rather, who tries to cook stuff that is mostly edible. OK, just so you know. :)
It has about 8 minutes left to steam and my son just came through and said, "That smells really good!" Good sign, people. Good sign.
I steamed them for about 30 minutes as the recipe instructed and when I took the lid off, the sausage shaped roll popped out of the pan a little bit and was whistling. Very seitanic. Jacob and I both backed away in fear.
It still felt kind of squishy, though, so I steamed it a little longer. I'm worried that maybe my dough was not doughy enough. It was more like a mash. The recipe called for me to cut it into four peices, but my dough was of such a consistency that division of that sort would have been impossible.
Okay, we're in the cooling down phase now. While that's going on, I'll tell you about cumin. I think I don't like it. I know this may sound strange coming from a person who lives in Texas and who probably eats Tex-Mex or some other sort of Latin-inspired food most nights of the week. What can I say? I think that in some recipes it works and I don't notice it. In other recipes, like chili, I do. The more cumin I can taste in a chili, the less I want to eat that chili.
Which brings me to Spiral Diner. This is a vegan restaurant here in Fort Worth, Texas. Do you know what the nickname for Fort Worth is? Cow Town. So, the mere existence of this place is a miracle. The first time I went, I ordered Bryan's Brutal Tacos. There's a pic here. They are gorgeous things to behold. When I put them into my mouth, however, I found that I did not want to repeat the process. I continued on, though, being hungry. After about 5 bites, I just could not finish. Luckily I was with boyfriend who gladly took up the torch.
I think. I haven't asked, yet, but I will next time I go. It's that or some other spice that I just cannot hang with. I have noticed this taste present in other seitan entrees or food from specifically vegetarian / vegan places as well in other food.
Maybe it's cumin + some other thing that makes it taste so bad to me. Tomatoes?
Even the smell gets me a little.
Back to the task at hand...
I've let it cool just a little bit and it's still kind of soft, but it's not at all rubbery. I read a lot of bitching and moaning about rubbery seitan in my research, so I had fingers crossed that I could avoid that.
I cut the sausage roll into pieces and fried them in a little bit of oil until they were browned and then added some barbecue sauce. When it was all warm and gooey, I threw it on some wheat bread with a little bit of onion. Jacob came out and I asked him if he wanted a bite and he just tore into it. A lot of confidence he has in my cooking for some reason. Meanwhile, I took little mousy nibbles until I was sure it was all right.
And it was. I think it could be firmer, but the recipe says that tomorrow, it just may be. I'm putting it in the fridge and we shall see. I think overall, I did pretty well. Looking at pictures from recipe testers of the cookbook and others who were kind enough to post pictures of their process, mine came out pretty close in texture and appearance.
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