Friday, September 17, 2010


I am, by all counts, a terrible vegetarian. My thoughts are never far from the prosciutto, duck fat fries, and skirt steak I can't have. This week in particular I've been thinking a lot about how much easier it would be develop the patina of my new cast-iron skillet if I could just fry up a little bacon or maybe a couple of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. There really isn't anything quite like animal fat to get cast iron up to snuff. But, even if I can overlook the occasional chicken-stock-based soup when I'm eating out, it would be a little more difficult to pretend that I wasn't rendering pork fat in my own kitchen (for the sake of the patina, of course!). On that front, then, I'm out of luck.
But as for my other longings, there is this bourguignon--this seitan bourguignon. It is rich, earthy, and utterly satisfying, with the sort of thick, unctuous broth that you must sop up with a bit of good bread. And it doesn't leave you wishing for something meatier.
Seitain Bourguignon

Seitan Bourguignon
Adapted from The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen
Note: I recommend holding back on the salt a bit before tasting, especially if you're using store-bought seitan--while tasty, store-bought meat substitutes tend to be pre-seasoned and somewhat sodium-heavy. I used Upton's and found that the stew could have been just a little less salty.

8-10 modest garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh sage
2 sprigs fresh parsley
2 cups medium-bodied, dry red wine (preferably from Burgundy)
4 tablespoons naturally brewed soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
a generous grind of black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
2 bay leaves
2 strips fresh orange zest
1 pound seitan, drained and cut into one-inch cubes
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, sliced into bite-sized chunks
1 large celery rib with leaves, cut into one-inch pieces
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 pound cremini or white button mushrooms, left whole if small, halved or quartered if large
chopped fresh parsley for garnish

In a small pan over medium heat, combine the garlic and oil and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and poach the garlic until it turns pale gold, about 20 minutes. Strain the oil into a clean glass jar. Reserve the garlic.
Make a bouquet garni by tying together with kitchen twine or wrapping in cheese cloth the thyme, sage, and parsley.
In a large bowl, whisk together the wine, soy sauce, mirin, 1/4 cup of the garlic oil, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Add the bouquet garni, bay leaves, and orange zest. Add the seitan, cover the bowl with a plate, and set aside to marinate for 1 hour at room temperature, or for up to 8 hours in the refrigerator.
In a heavy four-quart flameproof casserole over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil. Add the onion and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and saute until the onion softs, about five minutes. Add the carrot, celery, tomato paste, and flour. Cook for five more minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking.
Pour all but 1/4 cup of the seitan marinade over the casserole. With a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned flour stuck to the bottom of the casserole. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 40 to 50 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
While the vegetables simmer, toss the mushrooms with the seitan, leftover marinade, and the remaining garlic oil. Spread the seitan-mushroom mixture in a baking dish large enough to hold it in a singe layer. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are well browned.
Remove the bouquet garni, orange zest, and bay leaves from the vegetables. Add the seitan-mushroom mixture to the pot and stir to combine. Add the reserved poached garlic and a bit more water if the stew is too thick. Simmer gently for 10 minutes to meld the flavours.
Serve garnished with chopped parsley.
Serves 4 to 6 people.

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