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Gardein, My New Back-Up When the Seitan Gets Too Ruff

May 6, 2010

Chef Tal Ronnen, I fucking hate you.

On Tuesday I celebrated  Seitan Tuesday.  My stubbornness urged me to try the Seitan Diane again.  Why can’t I let this recipe go?

When I mentioned my plans to Andy, he furrowed his brow and told me to have a backup “meat” available, just in case.  Thanks for the vote of confidence, baby!

I ended up making three batches of seitan.

Batch number one, which I planned on using some other time:  Used the recipe from Vegan With a Vengeance, but forgot the soy sauce.  The bottle was sitting right there in front of me, I just forgot to use the stuff.  Instead of boiling the seitan I formed it into a Nerfball-sized lump, wrapped it in foil and baked it.  Good texture, but bland.  But I don’t think I would have liked it better if I’d remembered the soy sauce, so whatev.  It’ll work for condiment-heavy sandwiches.  DRAW.

Batch number two, which I planned to, uh, “Diane”: Used my own recipe (see below).  I tried to knead/fuss with the dough as little as possible and be precise about the amount of liquid added to the dry ingredients.  This time I decided to boil.  I discovered that a lot of flavor leaches from the seitan into the boiling medium, which made me angry.  The results turned out almost as rubbery as the batch I made almost a month ago; I have decided that I will never boil seitan again.  Never ever ever.  FAIL.

Batch number three, which I threw together just to save face: Used my own recipe (see below).  I kneaded the dough even less this time, and it could have used a few drops more water but I was too chicken (ha) to add any more liquid.  Formed the mess into a log, wrapped it in foil and baked it for an hour.  It came out great!  Firm, easy-to-slice texture, with a flavor that might not be “chicken” per se, but was certainly good enough to stand on its own without being smothered in barbeque sauce.  SCORE.

Well, kind of.  By the time I got batch number three in the oven, it was already past the time I told Andy I’d have dinner ready.  If I even suggested that he should wait another hour before seeing food, he probably would have eaten my face off.

Enter the back-up.

So… I gathered the ingredients for the Diane sauce and prepared everything the same as before.  Roasted asparagus, lemon-parsley orzo pasta, yadda yadda.  But this time I sauteed Gardein’s Chick’n Scallopini in my dijon-mustard sauce instead of seitan.

Gardein’s products, which well-known vegan chef Tal Ronnen (author of The Conscous Cook) helped create, are widely available in supermarket freezer sections and even pre-cooked in cute little lunch packs at some Whole Foods stores.  In addition to the Scalloppini, I’ve also tried the “beef tips,” which are just begging to be smothered in a red-wine reduction sauce.

Pros:
Convenient, quick to prepare.
Chicken-y!  Fibrous enough to resemble flesh (which, understandably, will put some vegans off) and very moist.

Cons:
Expensive.
Tiny portion sizes!!

YUM!  Gardein Diane!  I didn’t take pictures of our meal… we ate it too fast!

Chef Ronnen, you and that fancy, duded-up, processed soy/pea/wheat-protein goodness you helped create stole my seitan’s thunder!! (And saved me from having my face eaten off.)  My jealousy is what makes me hate you sooo much.

Though I will continue my search for the perfect wheat-gluten recipe, I will probably buy your frighteningly-realistic products again.

Here’s a quote I found from an old article about Chef Ronnen:

“Vegan food or vegan diet basically means you can eat anything in the world except for animal products, and you are left with so much that adds all the beautiful color on the plate, and all the healthy vegetables and the grains, mushrooms and the dense-protein, meat alternatives.”

Yay.

Oh yeah–if anyone cares at this point, here’s my seitan recipe:

Seitan for the Rest of Us

2 cups vital wheat gluten (approx. 10 oz)
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 1/4 cups cold water
1 Tbsp. Better than Boullion, chicken flavor (or three faux-chicken boullion cubes)
1 Tbsp. white miso paste
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely grated
1 tsp. lemon zest, finely grated

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Mix dry ingredients together in one bowl, and wet ingredients (including the garlic and lemon zest) in another bowl. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture a bit at a time until it’s all combined. Knead very gently, just enough to combine the ingredients. Form the dough into a log or ball and let it rest for five minutes. Wrap the dough tightly in aluminum foil, twisting each end like a candy wrapper. Place the wrapped dough on a baking sheet and bake for 45-60 minutes.

Although it’s time to put the Seitan Diane recipe to rest for a while, I’m looking forward to more gluten-y adventures… and a certain chef better LOOK OUT!!

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