Sunday, March 27, 2011

raising hell (making seitan)

I have this amazing, fail-proof seitan recipe.  Granted, what happens to the seitan after I've baked it has the possibility of all sorts of fail (<-- foreshadowing), but the seitan itself is amazing.  It is a bit time consuming, so I set aside part of what I had hoped would be a slightly more productive afternoon to make a loaf.

First, I gathered all of my ingredients together for a nice little family portrait (and to show how not scary making seitan is):

Sure, it might look like a lot of ingredients, but it's really not that much once you get going.  Plus, if you hop over to A Vegan Riot, there are step by step instructions along with pictures.

First, I put together all of the dry ingredients in my pretty Martha-Stewart-Blue bowl, and combined all the liquid ingredients in my handy-dandy 2-cup measuring cup.  Then I poured the wet into the dry and squished it all together with my hands until it toughened up a bit and started to look like a little taupe brain.

After spraying a piece of foil with olive oil, I squooshed my little brain of seitan into a shape vaguely resembling a rectangle, then wrapped it up tight and put it on a baking tray.  After 75 minutes in the oven and several flips, it came out looking and smelling delicious.

The recipe makes about two pounds, which is fortunate, since there are two recipes on the menu this week which each require one pound of seitan.  Once he'd cooled down to touching temperature, I cut the little bugger in half, wrapped up one half, and cubed the other.

Before that, however, I diced a whole white onion as small as I could.  This next picture makes my blood run cold.

That bowl is actually pretty big.  That is way more onion than I am comfortable with, but I was testing a recipe for Dynise, and she was very specific that she wants the recipes tested exactly as they're written (which makes a great deal of sense, since she's the cookbook author), so I chopped a whole large onion, hoping it would saute down to something I couldn't taste by the end.

I literally grimaced when I emptied that bowl into the waiting skillet.  There are just so many onions.

Fortunately, after an hour of simmering in the broth and sauce, they really did become nearly unrecognizable and although I can taste my own dragonbreath as I sit here, I could not actually taste the onions as I was eating dinner. 

After an hour of simmering/braising, this is what Seitan with Prunes looked like.  I think it looks tasty in a Persian-ethnic kind of way.  Personally, I like the sweet-n-savory combination of some south-middle-eastern cooking (think Persia/Iran and the northern bits of Africa, like Morocco).  Mister...not so much.

I knew this was a risk, but no one else had dared to test this recipe yet and the allure of being the first (possible only) tester for a recipe was too much for me to resist.  I'm in a place where I find myself extremely unfulfilled by my job, so most of my daring feats and feelings of accomplishment occur in my kitchen.  I was pretty sure Mister didn't like prunes, because he generally does not like dried fruit, especially when the drying of the fruit involves a name-change (think grapes --> raisins, folks).  As such, I hid the name of the recipe from him until after he'd taken a bite.  I watched as he tried really hard not to make a face to match the total revulsion he was feeling, then stifled my laughter as he tried to ask "What is this?" as respectfully and expressionlessly as possible. 

In short, as far as Mister was concerned, dinner was a complete failure.  Angst agreed, as he retreated as far away as he could get when I let him sniff my dish.  I didn't think it was that bad, but Mister hated it.  He got about three bites in before going to the fridge for bread while saying that it was just "way way way way Waaaay too sweet."  Even the decent bit of strong broth and way more onions than I'm comfortable with were overpowered by the chopped prunes; the addition of cinnamon and agave nectar did little to assist the savory nature we had both hoped for.  For the first time in nine years, Mister conceded that beef would actually taste better in this dish than the seitan did - he had a point, though.  Beef holds onto its flavor far better than seitan, which by design, takes on the flavor of the things with which you cook it.  If you cook beef with dried fruit, you will taste the sauce, but the flavor of the beef will be uninhibited.  When you cook wheat gluten with something, it tends to absorb that something's this case, prune sauce.

Of course, Mister couldn't let go of how revolting he thought the name was and postulated that the name alone was probably what prevented other testers from trying it out.  It's true - there is a certain [unfortunate] word association that occurs when a person says prunes.

Maybe my parents would like the recipe...

I'm going to hide now.

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