Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Seitan Stir Fry

Well, I made about a pound of seitan, so I tried a stir fry with vegetables to test it out as an ingredient. I actually started with a recipe (unusual for me when making stir fry), which had, in addition to the seitan, shiitake mushrooms, some green beans (I used asparagus, too) and black bean garlic sauce, a perky Asian condiment. I also added some dried hot chile peppers, which turned out to be my downfall.

In an effort to create the more authentic flavor developed in a very hot wok, I’ve been trying to make stir-fried dishes at the maximum heat the largest burner on the stove will give. Unfortunately, when making this particular stir fry, I got a little careless with the hot pan and the peppers and garlic. I now have some idea what it is like to be pepper sprayed. I coughed, sniffed, blew my nose and wiped my eyes all through dinner, unable to taste much of anything.

So, the recipe and method weren’t perfect. I decided I wanted more asparagus, fewer mushrooms, and a lot less tear gas, so I tried again with the rest of the seitan. There was a limited amount of asparagus left in the refrigerator, but I did have some green beans, and, while I preferred the yummy asparagus, the beans were good too. I also was much more careful with the peppers and managed to avoid coughing my way through the meal.

Oh yeah, and the seitan was good in this stir fry. It pretty much picks up the flavors around it, especially the black bean garlic sauce, which is rich and savory, plus a little salty (loaded with umami if that’s what you’re into) like a soy sauce on steroids. You can find it with the Asian condiments in large grocery stores. If you don’t want to use seitan, homemade or otherwise, and you want to keep the dish vegetarian, you could use extra-firm tofu (I find that they resemble each other quite a bit). Just about any other dense protein, like chicken, pork or beef would probably be good, too.

Seitan Stir Fry with Asparagus, Green Beans and Black Bean Garlic Sauce
Based on a recipe in Cooking Light magazine

If you’re serving this dish with rice, it’s a good idea to wait until the rice is cooked, or almost cooked before beginning to cook the stir fry.

4 large dried shiitake mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
¼ cup Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
2 tablespoons black bean garlic sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoons canola, peanut, or vegetable oil
8 ounces sliced seitan, drained if stored in liquid
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 dried chile peppers, broken in half
1 pound chopped asparagus, green beans or a mixture

1. Place the shiitake mushrooms in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let stand about 20 minutes, or until completely reconstituted. (You can slice, chop, etc the remaining ingredients while waiting for the mushrooms to soak.)

2. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Thinly slice the mushrooms and set aside.

3. To the mushroom soaking liquid, add the Shaoxing wine, black bean garlic sauce, and cornstarch. Whisk well to combine and dissolve all of the cornstarch. Set aside.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok or large frying pan over high heat. Add the seitan and stir fry until golden brown. Remove from the heat and remove the seitan from the pan. Set aside.

5. Add the remaining oil to the pan, leaving it off the heat. (This is how I avoided gassing myself!) Add the garlic and chiles and stir them for about 30 seconds. (If the pan is not hot enough for them to sizzle, you can return it to the heat, but be careful not to scorch them.)

6. Return the pan to the heat and add the asparagus and/or green beans. Stir fry 5-7 minutes or until they are tender-crisp. (I actually like mine a little crunchy.)

7. Add the mushrooms and stir fry 2 minutes. Stir in the seitan.

8. Stir the mushroom liquid mixture (to re-dissolve any settled cornstarch) and pour it into the pan. Stir and cook until the mixture boils and thickens. Remove from the heat and serve, preferably over rice or noodles.

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