Monday, January 17, 2011

seitan for a chance! [cooking club entry #1]

This meal should have taken a little less, according to the cooking directions. Probably closer to 2 1/2 hours. I'm not a slow cook by any means. If something isn't coming around, I turn up the heat and watch it closely to make sure it doesn't burn. I prep ingredients in advance. I pour and measure in advance. That being said, this is the first of many entries for the cooking club I joined!

If you're vegan, you've heard of this book. I've referred to it as "the bible". It definitely redefines the term "ultimate" as it is truly comprehensive in terms of cooking and preparing so many essential vegan items, as well as assembling them into a plethora of intriguing recipes separated into many different sections.

All of that being said, I didn't even suggest "Vcon" as one of my preferences for the cookbook club. I've made about 10 recipes form this cookbook in the 1 year + 1 month I have owned this book (I received it last year for Christmakkuh from a friend that had no idea it was so well renowned by the vegan community). I have enjoyed many of them. But this book is a staple in the community. There are so many books I have heard of (or even OWN) that I have made so few recipes from and really need an extra push to delve into them. OH WELL! Here's hoping I get pushed into some of the other books I have (or have even been considering purchasing -- DANGEROUS GROUND for me as I am someone that has a problem with buying cookbooks!)

Yes, a picture will come up here eventually. I have a camera, but I have yet to watch the tutorial on how to upload pictures onto my desktop (something I seldom use as it is).  More to come on that later.

This week I decided to give seitan a chance. I just googled an image to put above this paragraph and was disgusted. I've never liked this form of fake meat. I thoroughly enjoy tofu. I appreciate many frozen prepared meals made with TVP or soy isolate protein (read: 'chickn' nuggets/patties, etc.) and use them when I am short on time, although with so many odd ingredients I definitely don't make it a hobby.  At any rate, I wanted to embrace the challenge of joining a cookbook club by adding onto it with another challenge: getting over seitan. It has been enjoyed by so many in the vegan community that I feel like I could give it a chance. Whenever I have seen it in a recipe or menu item, I do without it (namely pho at vietnamese restaurants). I don't enjoy the taste, I think it's really bland. I don't want the texture, I know the chewiness is just so fake and I find it off-putting.

But I knew I should at least TRY and get over it. So I delved into Vcon to find some recipes that might explore this foreign food (I remembered it being rich with seitan-y recipes) and made "Seitanic Jambalaya" tonight. I enjoyed jambalaya as an omnivore -- it has so many deep flavors with the vegetables, tomato base, and the meat and seafood flavors. I was intrigued how it would translate as a vegan dish. I even made it a few months ago, well "Jumble-aya" from Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan, a much more simplified version, and it was delicious and simple. I am going to start out by saying that this recipe was a lot more complicated than that one, but the flavor was definitely deeper. Red wine bolstered the flavors. The crispy bits of browned seitan really add flavor. But I still don't like seitan. I mushed it into the rest of the jambalaya and chewed my way through the bowl. I didn't even finish it, and I almost always finish my food. I might have to slice the seitan into very thin strips and brown it on all sides next time I prepare it.

Still, this dish took almost 3 hours. Making the seitan was a process unto itself. You could buy it pre-packaged, but that looks so disgusting. It is time consuming. While it boiled away, I prepped all my veg. It was somewhat therapeutic. I watched several episodes of Season 3 of ER today! At any rate, it all came together, except the rice never cooking. I used brown basmati rice, a choice selection in my household, and knew it would take the recommended 40-45 minutes for brown rice, but it definitely took an hour, and not every bite of rice is completely cooked. Kind of unsettling, but I'll get over it. Overall, some nice complex flavors that developed well, but the seitan was disappointing for me, and sort-of let the whole dish down with it. A bummer for me :(


  1. I've never loved seitan myself. It's too chewy and realistic for me. This dish sounds great though, so maybe I'll try it with tofu or tempeh. Great review!

  2. Sorry to hear that after all that work the seitan was disappointing! What other recipes have you tried from Vcon?

  3. Candy: I think I'm just not one for seitan either. I love tofu, I enjoy tempeh, but I don't think seitan is something I'll come around to.
    Lindsay: I posted two more in the next post, but before joining the club I had made the lower fat banana bread, apple-peanut butter-caramel bars, fudgy wudgy blueberry brownies, and chickpea cutlets with herb-scalloped potatoes. I plan on revisiting those recipes for a final review later! :)