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Every [Thanksgiving] Meal Has a Story.

November 29, 2010

I hope you had a joyous Thanksgiving weekend! xoxoxo

The title of this post comes from a paper Whole Foods bag, which will feature prominently in my 2010 Thanksgiving tale.

For weeks–months, even–I had been fantasizing about flitting about the kitchen on Thanksgiving day with cartoon birds landing on my shoulders and rabbits bounding into the window (never mind that I live in a high-rise) as I effortlessly created a seitan turkey roast, just like the one I saw in the Thrifty Living (TL) blog.

The reason I gravitated toward this particular recipe is that it had something I’d never seen before on any turkey-esque roast, not even the expensive store-bought ones: SKIN.

Now you ought to know by now that I am 100%, without-a-doubt against eating actual turkeys.  Why the F would I bother with fake ones otherwise?  In fact, I adopted a turkey this year through Farm Sanctuary.  His name is Reese and he likes cabbage and squash, as do I.  So there.

That being said, every sane person–as sane as a person who eats turkeys can be, that is–knows that the best part about Thanksgiving turkey is the crispy, golden skin.  The meat itself was never a big draw for me; it was something to be chopped up and mixed with mayo and pickles to be slopped on white bread for school lunches the following week.  But the skin, now that’s something else entirely.  I’m surprised that the Tofurky people haven’t caught on to this.

Anyway, the crispy “skin” in TL’s recipe is made of yuba, aka dried beancurd.  When soymilk is boiled, a skin forms on the surface.  When this skin is skimmed off and dried, ta-da!  That’s yuba.  Yuba can be found at well-stocked Asian grocery stores; I found mine in the noodle aisle.

Anyway… eventually Thanksgiving Day approached.  Aside from the shopping Andy and I did the week before (and the last-minute trip he took alone) I didn’t have much time to prepare before the big day because I had a 3-day trip that took me away from home Monday and Tuesday nights, letting me return late Wednesday afternoon.  As I overnighted in such exotic locales as Detroit, MI and Gunnison, CO, I worried about my T-Day meal.

On Wednesday night, I made cranberry-quinoa stuffing and combined the wet ingredients for the seitan.  TL’s roast uses wild rice stuffing, but I’m sorry, saying quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wah’) makes me feel so much more chef-y than wild rice ever could.  Plus, we already had quinoa and a huge bag of Craisins–it’s destiny!!  A brief reading of the recipe led me to decide that just one batch of stuffing somehow wouldn’t be enough to stuff my “bird” so I made a double batch.  This stuffing was extremely moist because I added the 1/4-ish cup of water that was left over after I reconstituted my dried mushrooms.  It just seemed like a good idea at the time.  Sigh.

I also took  the time to copy ‘n paste TL’s recipe into Word and remove the British measurements so as not to confuse myself, which is very easy to do.  Here is my version, with the cranberry-quinoa (tee hee! Keeeen-wahhhh) stuffing:


Seitan Turkey Roast with Cranberry-Quinoa Stuffing

Wet mix    
5 tablespoons   ground raw cashews or almonds
9 ounces   tofu
1   vegan chicken-style bouillon cube
    (enough to make 2 cups of bouillon)
1 tablespoon   soy sauce
3 tablespoons   mild vegetable oil
1/4 cup   finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons   nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon   minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon   salt
1/2 teaspoon   freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon   dried sage
1/4 teaspoon   minced fresh rosemary
1/8 teaspoon   dried thyme
Dry mix    
1 cup + 3 tablespoons   wheat gluten
1 teaspoon   arrowroot or cornstarch
½ oz   dried mushrooms (I used shiitake)
1 tsp   olive oil
1   small onion, diced
½ tsp.   salt
½ tsp.   oregano
2 tsp.   thyme
½ cup   cashew pieces (I used raw, but would use roasted next time)
⅓ cup   dried cranberries, finely chopped
½ cup   quinoa, uncooked
1 cup   vegetable broth
to taste   pepper
16×20″ sheet   bean curd skin
1 tablespoon   mild vegetable oil
1 teaspoon   soy sauce

1. In a pot over the stove, add quinoa and broth and bring to a boil.

2. Cover when boiling and reduce to a simmer; cook for 12-15 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed (the cooked germ looks like a tiny curl).

3. Put dried mushrooms in a separate bowl of hot water and set aside.

4. In a large skillet, heat oil and then sauté onion over medium heat.

5. Add salt and let onion cook a few minutes until they’ve sweated a bit.

6. Add herbs, pepper, and cashew pieces and continue to cook for about 5 minutes.

7. While that’s happening, drain mushrooms and chop them up, then add to pan; add cranberries and quinoa and stir.  Set stuffing aside.

4. Next, start on the roast.  If you’re starting with whole cashews or almonds, grind them in the blender first while it’s still clean and dry, then remove and set aside.

5. Crumble the tofu into the blender. Put the bouillon cube in a glass measuring cup and add a couple tablespoons of boiling water to dissolve the cube. Add the soy sauce, then add enough water so the mixture equals 6-1/2 tablespoons. Add this to the blender.

6. Add remaining ingredients to blender EXCEPT dry ingredients. Blend until completely smooth. Empty into a large mixing bowl. [Note: I stopped here for the evening, combining the dry and wet ingredients in the food processor the following day.]

7. Whisk together the gluten and arrowroot or cornstarch, then stir into the wet ingredients and mix until evenly combined. You’ll have a soft dough.

8. Place a large piece of Saran wrap onto the work surface. Turn dough out onto the wrap and press flat into a 10″x15″ rectangle.

9. Spread stuffing evenly over dough, leaving a 1″ border at the edges. Roll into a log (starting from the short end), then press the ends together to seal. Make sure the log is short enough to fit into your steamer. You can gently press the log into a shorter, fatter shape if it’s a bit too long.

10. Wrap the log in a piece of baking paper (parchment paper), then in muslin and tie the ends with cotton string.

11. Bring water to boil in a pot that has a steamer insert. Steam turkey for two hours over gently simmering water, turning a quarter turn every half hour. Check water level regularly to ensure the pot does not boil dry and add boiling water as necessary.

12. For “skin” on turkey: Preheat oven to 400°F. When finished steaming, let turkey cool until it can be handled. (Or remove from refrigerator if prepared ahead of time.) Unwrap from muslin and baking paper/parchment. Take the sheet of beancurd skin and dip it into a bowl of warm water until it softens. Don’t oversoak it or it will start to fall apart. Fold beancurd skin in half and place on work surface. Place turkey on top of beancurd skin, fold in the sides and wrap around the turkey.

13. Combine oil and soy sauce. Brush over surface of turkey.

14. Bake in preheated oven for 30-45 minutes, rotating halfway through, until “skin” is crispy.

Serves 4-6.


Thanksgiving morning.  Woke up late, tired from my 3-day trip.  I started on the roast early afternoon. (I’m sorry I don’t have step-by-step pictures to show you!  I was too mentally focused to pick up my camera.  Ha.)

I pulled the “wet mix” for the roast (tofu, herbs, etc.) from the refrigerator.  Unlike the recipe, I mixed all the ingredients in the food processor because I’d had success in the past using the Cuisinart to “knead” bread and cookie doughs.  Once I added the gluten and cornstarch, I was pleased with the results: a very soft, pliable, moist dough that smelled heavenly from the rosemary and thyme.  (Cleaning the food processor afterward is a bit of a chore, though.)

After covering the counter with plastic wrap, I removed the ball of dough and started rolling it flat with an empty wine bottle (clever!) that was also wrapped in plastic.  But I clearly have no idea how big 10″x15″ is, and was so impressed with my wine-bottle-rolling-pin that I got into a rolling groove and ended up with a very large, thin sheet of dough.

I proceeded to spread the entire quantity of my double batch of stuffing on this thin layer of dough, leaving a 1″ border around the edges as the recipe instructs.  When I went to roll the dough up into a log, it started to rip… but I patched it up quickly.

Then it got tricky.  The recipe clearly states, “Wrap the log in a piece of baking paper (parchment paper), then in muslin and tie the ends with cotton string.”  But I’ve never used parchment paper or muslin in my life and for some reason didn’t feel the need to start buying them now.

Andy said that he used to cover his turkey (an actual turkey, not a sticky roll of dough) with brown paper bags instead of parchment paper.  So what did I do?  Cut up some Whole Foods bags, wet them in the sink to make them more flexible, brushed them with olive oil, and wrapped my seitan loaf in that.  Then, not having muslin, I wrapped the paper-covered loaf in plain ol’ dish towels.  It was all so liberating!  It was like I was putting up my middle finger to the recipe-writing establishment!  We don’t need yer stinkin’ parchment paper!  Look at me and my common household items, some of which were destined for the recycling bin–it’s all so Iron Chef/MacGyver!  Mwahahahaaaaa!!!

The recipe also says to put the roast–all swaddled up like a newborn–into a steamer basket to steam for two hours.  Uh, no steamer either.  I’d been meaning to get one, but the only things I ever steam are artichokes, and I haven’t done that since we lived in San Diego.  When I needed to steam, I just stacked a metal colander atop a large pot filled with water…

Sooo I thought a broiling pan filled with water would be a friggin’ awesome idea.  After all, at least it was big enough to accommodate my roast, which was the length of my forearm, probably nearly twice the length of TL’s roast.  There’s no way it would have fit inside a steamer!

I placed the water-filled broiling pan atop one of the stove’s burners and soon it was steaming away.  And I was feeling so.  Fucking.  Smug.  You couldn’t tell me nothin’!

BUT the problem with jerry-rigged kitchen aids–especially when heat is involved–is that you never know what might happen.  One time, while steaming artichokes in the aforementioned colander/steamer, I thought it would be great to put a small glass jar filled with Earth Balance alongside my ‘choke so that everything would be ready all at once.  (I got the idea from those old hot-air popcorn poppers that had the little tray on top where you’d put butter–by the time the corn was done popping, you’d have melted butter!  How efficient!) Anyway, the next thing I know, I’m picking shards of glass out of the colander.  Yep.

I left the roast unattended–it’s all Andy’s fault.

The pan was too shallow to hold much water.

We heard a crackling sound at first, but ignored it.

“I smell something…” I said.

Our heads whipped toward the kitchen–



We raced to the stove as orange flames surrounded the roast, filling the apartment with smoke.  Andy used more kitchen towels to grab the broiling pan–the water inside completely boiled away–and threw the whole inferno into the sink.

For a split second, as I saw my roast pressed limply against the side of the sink, wrapped in charred kitchen towels, I was ready to give up.  But, after we opened some doors to let the smoke out, I gingerly lifted the roast onto the counter and unwrapped it.

Eh, it wasn’t so bad.  So we lost a couple of kitchen towels, no big deal.  Aside from a few holes and the fact that it looked ready to rip in half at any second, the roast looked okay.  I got another paper bag, more towels (we go through a lot of towels, in case you didn’t notice) and ver-r-r-r-y carefull-l-l-l-y wrapped the log up just like before.

This time –and again I’m sorry I don’t have pictures–my “steamer” was a cooling rack atop a large pot filled with boiling water.  And this lasted for two hours without any signs of fire.  Ahhh.

Once the kitchen timer rang, I removed the “turkey” from its steamer.

Brown paper bags are NOT the same as parchment paper.
Brown paper bags are NOT the same as parchment paper.
Brown paper bags are NOT the same as parchment paper.

(I wonder if aluminum foil would have worked?  Hmmm….)

The dough, still quite sticky, clung to the bag as I tried to unwrap it.  What a fucking mess.  It took me several minutes with a knife to try and salvage as much of the outer layer of “meat” as I could.  Blobs of soggy quinoa stuffing fell out of the sides of the beast as I struggled with this painstaking task; I just sighed deeply, picked it up and shoved it back in.

Now my “bird” needed some skin.  Since the roast was too long and very fragile, wrapping moistened sheets of yuba around it proved to be an arduous task. I had to slide my arm all the way under the roast to lift it up to slide the yuba underneath (which is how I know it’s as long as my forearm) and some creative folding and overlapping.  Ugghhh…  I slapped some Earth Balance on it, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, and threw the dang thing in the oven.  I was quite through with it at this point–I wasn’t even that hungry anymore.

But I chugged along anyway and got the rest of our meal ready.  Since it was just Andy and me and since the main course took up most of my mental energy, I chose to keep the side dishes simple.  Green beans and walnuts sauteed in olive oil (yum) and sweet potato puree, which was originally supposed to be mashed sweet potatoes but I added too much soy milk–gotta quit eyeballing stuff!–so I threw the whole thing in the blender and served it in small glasses layered with brown sugar, like a parfait.  Not bad.  I also slapped together a mushroom and onion gravy, the same one I’ve been making forever: mushrooms and onions sauteed in Earth Balance, vegetable broth, a little garlic powder, and cornstarch.  Gravy-licious, makes anything taste better!

I thought about making macaroni n’ cheeze, but still I haven’t found a great recipe that would “fool the cheese-eaters” and my thighs don’t need me to eat a whole pan of mac n’ cheeze by myself.  So that’s that.

45 minutes later…




Ultimately, I did get what I wanted: golden crispy skin, tender “meat” perfumed with sage and thyme, and something that would give me decent leftovers for a few days.  The leftovers smell just like leftover turkey, I swear!  Yesterday I made a sammich with homemade bread, Vegenaise, mustard, and a big slice of roast–awesome!  In fact, I think I’ll have another.

But the “meat”-to-stuffing ratio is way off, and there’s not enough meat in each bite.  I also should have just stuck to the wild-rice stuffing, or at least something that wasn’t so sweet.  I was never a fan of fruit/meat combinations (pineapples on ham?  Disgusting!) and this was no exception, no matter how big of an orgasm saying “cranberry-quinoa stuffing” gives me.  And the raw cashews I used soaked up too much liquid, which gave the whole thing a strange texture.  Eh.  Also, I neglected to flip the roast over halfway through baking, so it got a little overdone on the bottom.  (But really, how would I have flipped it?)

And next time I’ll be a little (just a little) more prepared and follow the recipe a little more closely.  :)

But Andy showered me with compliments and went back for seconds, so I “pleased the meat-eater,” which seems to be the goal of many vegan cookbooks for some reason.  (Um, kind of.  He’s mostly vegetarian but I know he’d eat turkey for T-Day if I weren’t around.)

And I accomplished one of my goals!

62. Make my own faux turkey for Thanksgiving.

And I got to spend a lovely evening at home with my Andy and talk to my mom on the phone about the nut loaf she made for the occasion.

I’m thankful the story of my meal had a happy ending.  :)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 23, 2010 8:26 pm

    hilarious, girl!! thanks for sharing…can’t wait to see your Christmas dinner saga!

    • January 2, 2011 6:40 pm

      Thanks, Renee!! Hope you had a beautiful holiday. :)

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