24 October 2013

Maggie's Seitan Au Jus

This October has been (apparently) a bit insane for me, even though I'm not sure why that's been the case. In any event, I hope to make it up to you, dear readers, by telling you about another one of Shana's all time favorite dinners - seitan au jus. This dinner is a vegan version of a roast beef au jus (or "French Dip") sandwich, crossed with a Philly cheese steak sandwich, and inspired by the Vietnamese Seitan Baguette with Savory Broth Dip found in Veganomicon. It sounds like a bit of a sandwich mash-up, but it turns into something positively delicious! So let me explain a bit more about how I got here.

First, let's start with the French Dip. Like this decidedly non-vegan sandwich, seitan au jus has a savory dipping sauce from its own juices, softening the bread and adding extra flavor. Second, Philly cheese steak. Many years back, Shana and I went to the Reading Terminal Market while visiting her family in Philly. We wandered around trying to decide what to eat for lunch when I saw a place that sold vegan cheese steaks. Having never had one, I decided on the spot to try one. I was sold! This sandwich has most of the ingredients you'd find in a cheese steak ("meat," onions, and peppers). Third, the recipe from Veganomicon. When I got this cookbook, I read it cover to cover (as one does with cookbooks), marking recipes as I went along. I marked this one, but was a bit uncertain about how all the flavors (five-spice powder, mayo, cucumber, onion, cilantro, seitan, etc.) would work together. Regardless, it got my brain turning and this recipe emerged.

You can see the "au jus" in the bowl and the roasted cauliflower we had, too. 

Maggie's Seitan Au Jus Sandwich
Ingredients
1/2+ loaf seitan, cut into thin strips
2 large white or yellow onions, cut into thin strips
2 bell peppers (any color), cut into thin strips
6 c. broth from cooking seitan (but see Helpful Hints)
5-7 cloves garlic, smashed (see Helpful Hints)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
baguette

Directions
1. In a pot or saucier, combine the broth, smashed garlic, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil and then keep at a low boil to reduce while you cook everything else (it should reduce by about 1/3).
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute the red peppers in a bit of oil. We like them just starting to soften.
3. Remove the peppers and saute the onions in the same pan. You want them to start to caramelize, but not get too brown and crispy.
4. Remove the onions and saute the seitan in the same pan. You may need to add a splash more oil before you add the seitan. The seitan just needs to get hot and a little crispy.
5. While cooking the seitan, cut the baguette into 4 pieces and then cut each piece in half to make a sandwich bread. Toast each piece.
6. Make your sandwiches and ladle a bit of the "au jus" into small bowls for dipping.

Helpful Hints
  • If you opt for store-bought seitan, I would still cut up the pieces to make them a bit smaller. There are likely some faux-meat products you could purchase as well. For example, Gardein has some "beefless tips" that might work. 
  • I generally make this dish just after I've made the seitan (the same day or the next) so I just keep some of the broth that remains after the seitan is done cooking. If you don't make your own seitan or forget to save the broth, you can easily substitute Better Than Bouillon's "No Beef" broth or another very heavy, "beef-like" broth. 
  • For this recipe, you want the garlic to release its flavor but not end up in your dipping bowls like it would if it were minced or pressed. The solution to this is smashing the garlic. This ruptures the cell walls to release flavor, but also leads to big chunks. To smash the garlic, lay one clove down on your cutting board. Place the flat side of your knife blade on top of the clove. Then, with the heel of your other hand, smash down on the flat edge of your knife. 
  • You really want the onions to cook for this recipe. When I saute them, I add salt at the very beginning, as it helps to draw out the moisture in the onions. I also periodically add a bit of water to the pan. I saute these over med-high heat, so the water burns off very quickly while steaming the onions a bit. 

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