Cook happy and cook with love. I think that about sums it up.
I have been telling people for years that I do not travel on Thanksgiving. If you want to see me, you must come to my house and I will gladly cook for you. Over the years I have had as few as three and as many as twenty at my table. This year, I cooked for eight. I made the traditional turkey dinner but I also did things a bit differently.
My daughter Elizabeth and son Greg were among my guests which made me very happy. They have adopted a vegetarian diet and I wanted to honor that choice. Whether it is intentional or not, too many people make people with dietary restrictions or choices feel unwelcome and put out when it comes to including them in family celebrations. I wanted all my guests to know that they are welcome and so began my quest.
Making most of the traditional dishes vegetarian was the easy part. In fact it was mostly substituting vegetable broth for chicken or turkey broth. I also made a very tasty mushroom gravy to serve along side the traditional turkey gravy.
For me, the challenge was going to be making something in place of turkey for my vegetarian guests. I wanted something filling and satisfying. I didn’t want to simply buy something and throw it in the oven without much thought and tofurkey, or anything made with tofu, was out of the question. It seems like a cop out to me. So my research began which led me to seitan.
Seitan is a meat substitute made from wheat protein. It has a very remarkable meat like texture and is very popular in many cultures that forgo the eating of meat. It is remarkably versatile and extremely tasty.
Ultimately, I came upon this recipe courtesy of Isa Chandra Moskowitz on her Post Punk Kitchen web site. This roast is fantastic and doesn’t need to be reserved for a holiday, but it sure makes a great centerpiece dish for a celebration.
Here is what I did:
For the filling:
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 oz shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced (remove rough ends)
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cut into thin half moons
½ teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme
¼ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
For the roast
3 cloves garlic
¾ cup cooked pinto beans, rinsed and drained (fresh or canned)
1 ½ cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed or finely chopped
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed between your fingers
1 teaspoon dried sage, crushed between your fingers
Several dashes fresh black pepper
First prepare the filling:
Preheat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Saute the mushrooms and leeks in oil about ten minutes or until soft. Add salt, pepper, garlic and thyme and cook for about two minutes more while constantly stirring often.
Add the breadcrumbs and cook the mixture tossing and stirring until the breadcrumbs are toasty and the mixture is relatively dry. After about five minutes the breadcrumbs should turn a few shades darker.
Drizzle in the broth and lemon juice and stir until moist. Additional olive oil may be needed if it still seems dry. Remove from heat and set aside.
Prepare the roast:
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a food processor, pulse the garlic until well chopped. Add the beans, broth, olive oil and soy sauce and puree until mostly smooth and no bean piece is bigger in size than a pea.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, herbs and spices. Make a well in the center and add the bean mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts coming together to form a ball of dough. Continue kneading with the spoon until everything is well incorporated.
Now roll out the seitan and form the roast by placing two pieces of tin foil (about 18 inches long) horizontally in front of you. Overlap the sheet further from you about six inches over the sheet closer to you. This will ensure you have enough foil to wrap around the whole roast.
Next, place a piece of wax paper on a separate surface and use your hands or a rolling pin to flatten the seitan into a roughly 12 x 10 rectangle. If the seitan tears, just pinch the dough back together. If the tear is large you can use dough from the ends to repair the holes.
Now place the filling in length-wise in the lower 1/3 of the seitan rectangle from end to end leaving about one inch at both ends. Compact the filling as tightly as you can.
It is now time to form the roast. Roll the bottom part of the seitan up and over the filling. The wax paper will help keep the seitan from tearing while you roll. Roll until it is in a log shape. Pinch together the seam if needed and then pinch together the sides to seal.
Lastly, place the roll in the center of the tinfoil and roll up like a tootsie roll. Make sure the ends are tightly wrapped and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for an hour and a half. The roast should feel very firm. If it does not, cook a little longer until it does. Rotate the roll every 15 minutes for even cooking.
Remove from oven and let cool about five or ten minutes. Unwrap, slice and serve with a mushroom gravy.