Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Beer-Bathed Seitan Stew

This stew is a vegan riff on Belgian carbonnade a la flamande, a hearty sweet and sour stew simmered in dark beer and brown onions out of Vegan Eats World by Terry Hope Romero. Brown sugar, mustard, and cider vinegar give this stew a sweet flavor while the mushrooms and seitan keep it hearty. It is a bit time-intensive to make so allow more than an hour. Have all of the ingredients for this stew chopped and measured and ready to go. This carbonnade is put together in stages and you'll need to add the ingredients quickly without having to stop and measure out or chop individual ingredients.

Beer-Bathed Seitan Stew
Serves 4

  • 2 8-ounce packages seitan
  • 10 ounces cremini mushrooms
  • 3 large yellow onions (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 3 Tbsp canola or grapeseed oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 pound turnips or carrots (about 1 large turnip or 2 medium-size carrots)
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • 1 1/2 cups dark (but not stout) beer
  • 1 heaping Tbsp prepared Dijon mustard or 2 tsp apple cider vinegar or both
  • A few twists of freshly cracked pepper

  1. Slice the seitan into bite-size chunks no thicker than 1/2 inch. Clean the mushrooms, remove the stems, and dice the caps into quarters; if some of the caps are very large, dice them into six or more pieces. Peel the onions, slice in half and slice each half into the thinnest half-moons possible, no thicker than 1/8 inch.
  2. In a large 3-quart stainless steel, heat 1 tablepoon of the oil over medium-high heat until it ripples in the pan. Add the seitan chunks and fry for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the edges start to brown. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape off any bits of seitan that stick to the bottom. Transfer the seitan to a large mixing bowl and set aside; bits of brown seitan sticking to the bottom of the pot are normal. Pour in 1/4 cups of the vegetable broth and bring to a simmer, stirring the bottom of the pot to deglaze the bits of browned seitan.
  3. Add another 1 tablespoon of oil to the pot, heat until rippling and add the mushrooms. Saute for 2 minutes, then cover and cook for another 4 minutes. Uncover and transfer to the bowl with the seitan. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the pot, add the onions, and saute for 5 minutes or until the onions begin to soften. Stir in the garlic, brown sugar, and tomato paste to coat the onions and fry for another 6 to 10 minutes, until the onions are very soft and juicy. Sprinkle and stir in the flour one tablespoon at a time. Continue to stir occasionally and fry the onions for another 2 minutes; the mixture will look thick and pasty. Pour in the vegetable broth and stir the bottom o fthe pot vigorously to dissolve any browned bits into the broth. Stir in the seitan, mushrooms, turnip or carrots, thyme, and bay leaves. Bring stew to an active simmer, turn heat down to medium-low, and pour in the beer. It will rapidly foam and then settle; stir a few times and partially cover the pot. Simmer the stew for 22 to 26 minutes, or until the turnips or carrots are tender. Stir the carbonnade occasionally, partially replacing the lid after each time. The flour will cook the broth into a silky light gravy.
  4. When the turnips or carrots are tender, turn off the heat and remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Stir in the mustard or vinegar (or both), add a few twists of black pepper, and let stand for 5 minutes to cool slightly. Serve either with hot oven frites on the side or pour the stew on top of frites piled into wide, shallow bowls. If preferred, this carbonnade can also be served with plain boiled or mashed potatoes or wide noodles tossed with a little vegan margarine.

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