Many, myself included, find that seitan (pronounced “SAY tan”) is one of the most satisfying foods to use as a meat replacement in recipes. Tofu is sometimes too bland, and the nutty flavor of tempeh can be too overpowering for certain recipes, but seitan falls somewhere in the middle. Seitan—or wheat gluten—has a mild, unique flavor that’s easy to pair with other ingredients, and it also has an interesting chewy texture that is often used to mimic chicken.
Since seitan isn’t soy-based, as many faux meats are, it opens up tons of recipe options for people who are sensitive to soy. These recipes include club sandwiches, pot “roast,” and panko-encrusted seitan, to name just a few. You can find premade seitan at almost any health-food store and some major grocery stores, or get a little crazy and try your hand at making it at home.
For the Gluten:
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
3 1/2 cups cold water
For the Stock:
7 cups water
1/2 to 1 cup shoyu
4 1/4-inch slices of ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
5 inches kombu (sea vegetable, available at health-food stores) or 1 cup vegetable broth
•Place the whole wheat and unbleached flour in a large mixing bowl and stir well to combine.
•While stirring, gradually pour enough water into the flour to form a sticky dough that can be kneaded.
•Punch the dough with your fists several hundred times, kneading for 15 minutes between punches to develop the gluten.
•Cover the dough with cold water, place in the refrigerator, and keep submerged for at least 30 minutes.
•Transfer the dough from the bowl to a colander and place it in the sink. Under cold running water, carefully knead the dough, rinsing out the starch and bran.
•After several minutes of cold water rinsing and kneading, the gluten will start to stick together. Alternate between room temperature water and cold water rinses while continuing to knead the dough until it has a firm, rubbery texture.
•To make the stock, combine the water, shoyu, ginger, garlic, bay leaf, and kombu in a large pot and bring to a boil.
•Pull pieces of gluten into small billiard-size balls. Drop the gluten into the liquid, one piece at a time, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
•Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the pieces.
•For improved flavor and firmer texture, allow the seitan to cool to room temperature in the broth.
•Store in the refrigerator or freezer, submerged in the broth.
Makes 1 1/4 pounds