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Wheat Meat? A beginners experience with Seitan.
Thing One , Thing Two ( my 11 and 13 year sons)and I were feeling a bit adventurous in the culinary way today and since Queeney, my 15 year old daughter (our resident wet blanket for all things vegan) was out of the house with friends, we decided to page through the ole web and look for vegan recipes to try. We came upon a way a recipe for seitan, and then we came upon another, and another, and another. Seems there are as many ways to make seitan and as many recipes as a happy little vegan would want. There are recipes, there are “you tube” video's and even entire websites devoted to this simple little meat substitute. Seitan is according to Wikipedia is a wheat gluten or wheat meat,and is made from the gluten of wheat. It is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until the starch dissolves leaving only the insoluble gluten as a dough-type substance then you simply add seasonings and cook. It can be steamed, fried, or baked from there.
Seitan provides 26 grams of protein per 4 ounces, only 2 grams of fat , 10 grams of carbs, 3.6 grams of iron and only 160 calories. Compared to meat sources like top round or chicken this makes seitan a protein source which approximately the same protein, but less fat and calories. For comparison your average 4 ounce chicken breast is around 160 calories , with 28 grams of protein and 7 grams of fat. Top round will come in with 210 calories, 36 grams protein and 7 grams of fat. The only real meat source that compares is fish with 110 -140 calories, 20-25 grams of protein and 1-5 grams fat but with seitan there is no mercury to worry about. Seitan can be made homemade from wheat flour, wheat gluten, or bought ready-made either in packages or canned. I didn't hear good things on the net concerning processed seitan, so I decided to make my own.
It seems there are two main ways to make your “dough” you can either take whole wheat flour and knead it till all the gluten is gone or buy wheat gluten. Considering the first sounded to be pretty work intensive I chose the latter. So off to the store we went for wheat gluten. We found a 1 lb 6 oz package for around $5 dollars from a brand called Bob's Red Mill in the organic section.I believe I have seen it in the Baking aisle as well, (I just didn't know what it was back then). I also picked up some nutritional yeast for I had heard it was a good addition given it's a good source of Vitamin B's providing 480% of B6 and 130% of B12 of your daily recommended values in a 1 ½ tablespoon serving.
Upon getting home with our bundles, I was still undecided as to the method I wanted to try first so after l looking at a number of recipes we decided on two different methods just to be able to compare. We ultimately decided on a boiled method and baking it in the oven. Since we were making two batches we decided to make one mock beef and one mock chicken. I whipped up the mock beef first. Your basic recipe seems to be one cup wheat gluten and one cup liquid, either water or the broth of your choice to season the mixture. I also added ¼ cup of nutritional yeast and adjusted the liquid. I chose a beef broth with a little smoke flavor added since we decided to attempt a barbeque rib sandwich thing first . For this method you mix your dry ingredients then add your liquid and form into a ball. You then knead the ball until it sticks together adding a little of the gluten to keep it from sticking to you. The entire process is much like making biscuits. Next you roll it into a ball or cylinder or just pat it out into patties. The last step is to put it into a 350 degree oven on a greased cookie sheet for 15 minutes. You then flip your patties and oven fry for another 7-8 minutes. We also coated the patties with barbeque sauce for a little more flavor. With this cooking I started on the next batch. Since I was trying one in the oven we thought we would boil the next batch and make it a mock chicken. So we did the same steps as before, one cup of wheat gluten and one cup of chicken broth with our nutritional yeast and some poulty seasonings. I mixed it all and kneaded it as before but this time I cut it into smaller chicken nugget sized chunks and dropped it into a boiling pot of chicken broth. This I covered and turned down to simmer for 45 minutes. To complete our vegan feast I made homemade cornbread, cowboy beans( with beef flavored tcp and smoke flavor and lots of fresh Valencia onions, onion rice( leftover brown rice, ½ packet onion soup mix and hidden valley ranch) and a green salad.
So what was the families ratings out of 5 ♥♥♥♥♥
The Barbeque “riblets” :♥♥♥♥
Chicken” nuggets: ♥♥♥
Cowboy baked beans ♥♥♥♥
Onion ranch rice ♥♥♥
As for my impressions regarding the great seitan experiment. I feel it was a success. I need to fine tune the seasoning a bit. The riblets didn't have enough flavor while the chicken had too much. I also like the consistency and moistness of the boiled seitan as opposed to the oven fried but if you are going to bread it and fry it up I would suggest doing it all ahead of time so the moisture has a chance drain from the seitan before breading it. I also have to admit I may have overcooked the baked seitant a bit. The fact that I was a little over extended with 5 pots going on the stove and two in the oven with no clue what I was doing may have lent to the less than perfect results. I definitely feel that seitan is something we will be trying again, it is fairly simple to make, cheap and a great source of protein. As far as our explorations into the world of vegan cooking this will be one we will need to revisit for it seems the possibilities are endless with seitan. A little patience and persistence may be in order to adapt it to our way of eating but that is how all cooking is. The first time I made homemade bread the kids took it outside and tossed it around the yard till my oldest son missed a catch and ended up with a black eye.