And what, you may ask, was Little Girl up to all of this time? Well, for part of it (though not as much as I had hoped - for her sake, not mine!) she was napping. For some of it she was playing and "helping" Mommy in the kitchen. I like to say that she likes to keep an "eye" out for what I am doing. And, if you look at the alphabet squares on the kitchen floor, you will see that she certainly does like to keep an "I" out!!
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Could it be... seitan?!
Several years ago I had never heard of seitan. Sounded strange... Turns out, I had eaten it, though... When I ordered mock chicken dishes at my favorite Chinese restaurant, turns out that the "mock" part is seitan! While you can purchase pre-made seitan, I like a challenge, and thought it sounded like fun, so I learned to make it myself. Mine might not have exactly the same texture, but it is home made, and it works really well!
Seitan, wheat meat, gluten... All the same thing, all really versatile, all very good to know about if you are vegetarian, know someone who is vegetarian, if you are thinking about reducing meat, or if you just want to impress people at a cocktail party. Seitan is made from vital wheat gluten. It is possible to rinse and reduce whole wheat flour to get to the gluten, but this sounds incredibly hard, time consuming and messy to me! Since I don't have oodles of time, and I am messy enough on my own, I use prepackaged Vital Wheat Gluten. To this I add whatever spices I want. Sometimes I keep it plain, sometimes I add powdered imitation chicken stock, sometimes I improvise. Today I added cumin, black pepper, ground mustard and ginger. I did not add salt, as I knew the liquid in which the pieces were to be cooked would be pretty salty. After mixing in the spices, I added the water and mixed again. Then kneaded. Usually I use my stand mixer to tackle kneading. But not for this. The "dough" is very elastic, and I like to have a feel for how stretchy it is, and how the water is absorbing. Once the dough is well kneaded and has rested, it is time to cut. This really could be cut into pretty much any size or shape you want. I chose small cutlets - almost chicken nugget sized. Even knowing what is in there, and having done it myself, I find it kind of cool how meat-like the consistency really is, even at this stage of the game.
Once the pieces have been cut it is time for a bath. (Not for me! I might be messy, but I am not that bad!) There are varying theories about this step. Some people think the liquid should be cold so everything heats together, some think it should already be boiling... I am not quite sure I know the difference. I have done it both ways, and I did not feel anything about the texture making me think one way is better than the other. For today I added the pieces to cold broth - part home made vegetable stock, part water combined with the above mentioned powdered imitation chicken stock. Then the waiting for the liquid to boil. While it isn't exactly true that a watched pot never boils, it does feel like it takes forever...! Once the liquid boils, turn the burner down, and let things simmer for an hour. It is amazing how much this stuff swells up during the cooking process! The picture I took of the seitan just added to the broth looked like a picture of broth. After a short simmer, it looked like this:Really cool! (But, then again, I am easily impressed...!)
When the seitan was done cooking, and had cooled in the pot, it had shrunk back down some. While it had grown from its original size, it wasn't quite as big as its cooking size. And I now have some great fake meat to use! I can use it in soups or stews, I can make fake chicken salad, or fry it up, or make my own "chicken" nuggets... The possibilities are darn near endless!