Cookery is always about sharing, borrowing… yeah, even stealing. The first time we made seitan burgers we had no qualms lifting the recipe (more or less, give or take some smoked salt) from a more tested source. We flipped a barely smudged ‘Real Food Daily’ cookbook, that one in a long line of old housemates had left behind, landing on the page for seitan.
Sure, we ended up injecting it with molasses-slicked barbecue sauce while piling it onto the grill. But at its core, this was still a recipe we ‘learned.’
When, earlier this month, we wiggled our way onto the BBQ grill at Verdugo Bar, (L.A.’s best new hope for rivaling San Fran’s infamous Zeitgeist beer garden) we saw the chance to innovate our seitan standard. The big idea was to forego the bun for a baguette. Some of the best fake meat in our minds, after all, is the gooey duck banh mi on the menu at Vinh Loi Tofu.
So curry seitan it was. Now, we wanted something that behaved essentially the same as our go-to, just lighter, more of a summer seitan. Coriander (ground and fresh) helps that. And a small fistful of turmeric powder stains the stuff unnaturally gold, hinting ‘chicken’, not ‘burger’. Finally, we shrank the oil usage slightly and cooked it a little less to stay juicy. While this recipe can still use some play, we’ve now made 8 loaves of the stuff. Now, you steal it.
(Makes 1 loaf)
4 cups vegetable stock
1 bunch cilantro (stems only)
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 Tbs. olive oil
3 cups gluten flour
1. 5 cups pastry flour
4 Tbs. turmeric powder
3 Tbs. ground coriander
2 Tbs. ground cumin
1 Tbs. ground lemongrass
1 Tbs. cayenne pepper
1 Tbs. kosher salt
2 cups cilantro leaves
1 Tbs. fresh black pepper
Canola oil spray
1. Start by making 4 cups of cilantro-steeped stock. We suggest using 4 cups filtered water blended with bullion on high heat for 5 minutes. (Broth from the box also works, there’s no need to make your own stock for this.) In a large pot, place broth on medium heat. Line up the cilantro stems and finely mince so you have about 1/2 cup. Toss half in the broth, and set the other half aside to add directly to the seitan. Let it reach a boil then turn off and cool for 20 minutes.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
3. Prepare your counter space by laying out all the necessary dry ingredients, a measuring cup (1 cup), 2 large mixing bowls, a towel, a bread pan, aluminum foil, wax paper, olive oil and canola spray.
4. Now mix the dry ingredients in one bowl: the flour, the spices and salt. Finally grind the fresh cilantro coarsely in a mortar and pestle or with a knife (a clean coffee grinder also works) and toss that in too.
5. In the second bowl, measure out the wet ingredients: stock, canola oil and soy sauce. Whisk well.
6. Slowly pour about half the wet ingredients into the dry bowl and mix roughly with your hands. Flick off goo bits and towel dry hands. Pour in the rest of the liquid, saving a tablespoon or so just in case. (You want a gloopy bread batter that sticks together if you try to flip it in the bowl but can also be easily pulled apart.) Add last bit unless it seems too wet.
7. Break off enough wax paper to line your bread pan. Spray the sides of the pan with a touch of canola, then lay it down. Spray even more on the top side of the wax paper to keep seitan from sticking. Grind a decent teaspoon or so of fresh black pepper.
8. You’re ready to dump-slide the seitan blob into your lined bread pan. Coat with a touch of olive oil on top, more black pepper and seal with aluminum foil.
9. Finally make a double-boiler by simply filling a large roasting dish one-third full with water and place the seitan loaf inside. This will gently bake the fucker. Put the whole thing in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
10. When your timer blows up, pull loaf out and uncover. Check doneness by poking with a fork. You want it to still be pliable and soft but slightly browned. Stick it in for 10 more minutes for color and remove. Turn bread over to separate loaf from wax paper (gentle) and slice to serve, sear or reheat!
Beverage: Eagle Rock Brewery’s Special Wheat
Soundtrack: Meat Beat Manifesto’s “Subliminal Sandwich”
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