Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Eat your tasty wheat. . . Gluten!

Wait, gluten? Isn't that a food that weirdo, rural vegan people made? Like, in the '70s? Prrrrobably. Indeed, my mom nabbed this recipe off a woman at church potluck. So, yep, rural weirdos converge. I know I am one of the many who shunned the packaged stuff, which looks eerily like offal in a thick gravy. Who's hungry now?

Yet, several months ago, on a visit to my parents' Missouri home, I tasted gluten for the first time, breaded with parmesan and Italian herbs. I fell in love with its texture, a surprisingly buttery softness inside a fried crust. "You made this?" I insulted my mother with the question multiple times. She admitted that, yes, she'd made it earlier that day, and that it was easy.

Gluten burbles in the pot with broth

Over Christmas, she shared her recipe, which I'd hoped she would demonstrate. Holiday timing being as it always is, we didn't get a chance. She left it with me, saying, "Really, it's easy. Just try it." And as her only caveat: "Make sure you have all the dry ingredients together before you add the wet. It comes together f-a-s-t." I didn't know what that meant. I looked over the recipe again. And yeah, there are a few weird ingredients, nothing impossible to find, though. Still, I let everything sit out on the countertop for two weeks, working up my nerve.

One day, I awoke with such a great attitude, I decided to attack the gluten first thing, prepared to spend the morning on it. But the mixture comes together in seconds, babysits itself for an hour in a steamy, stovetop bath and the recipe yields more than six pounds of yummy, high-protein product. The tapioca makes pockets in the gluten, a little texture surprise that you won't find in storebought, and the seasonings imbue the gluten with flavor. (P.S. It also freezes well.) I have to admit, that of the stewed, chilied and fried versions I've tried, I like the fried best.

Seriously, if you're looking for a high-protein vegan/vegetarian food source, try making gluten. It's incredibly cheap (about $6) and quick (budget 75 minutes for start to finish), so if you end up disliking it, no big. But if you like it as much as I do — and my husband does, yay! — you'll be quickly inventing new ways to season and serve gluten for years to come.

Amy Bryant's Mother's Gluten
Yields 5 to 6 pounds
1/2 cup soy sauce (can use Bragg's aminos instead, or half-and-half for lower sodium)
6 tsp vegetable broth seasoning or boullion cubes
2 quarts water
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
3 cups instant gluten flour (vital wheat gluten)
1/2 cup Minute-brand tapioca
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup brewer's yeast flakes
1/4 cup soy sauce (can use Bragg's aminos instead, or half-and-half)
3-1/4 cups water

Mix the broth ingredients in your largest stockpot on the stove. Make sure there is plenty of room left at the top of the pot. Turn the heat to high and start the gluten while you wait for it to boil.

Dry ingredients all mixed and ready

For the gluten, add all the dry ingredients to a large bowl and make a well in the center. In a separate bowl, mix the soy sauce with the water. Pour the wet ingredients into the well and use your hands to knead the ingredients together.

Ta-da! Seriously, 10 seconds after I poured in the soy/water mix.

In about 10 seconds, it will form a solid mass. Knead it lightly for a minute or so, just to make sure everything is well spread.

Can you tell this is my first time making gluten?

Pull into three pieces and roll each one into a long, skinny log. Use a sharp knife to cut each log into 1/2" thick slices. (FYI, even if you want the gluten smaller for use in tacos or chili, just keep it large here. It's difficult to fish out of the broth unless the chunks are big, and you can cut it up more later.) These slices will absorb most of your broth and grow to more than double in size.

The slices, awaiting their savory bath.

When your broth is boiling, add the gluten and bring it back to a boil. Let simmer over the stove for an hour, stirring as you happen to pass by. Let cool. Refrigerate or freeze in a bit of the liquid. If wanted, cut chops into bits for chili or stew before freezing.

This is 75% of what the recipe made for me, some chops and chili-size,
loaded into quart-size freezer bags.

Let frozen gluten thaw completely in the refrigerator before using.

Hello yummy, fried gluten.

Health(ier) Fried Gluten Breading
Makes enough for four or five batches

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup yeast flakes
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 T dried basil
1 T dried oregano
2 tsp garlic or onion powder

Mix together all ingredients. I like to freeze portions of this alongside the gluten, so I can quickly assemble everything. Or you can just keep the whole batch in the refrigerator.


Diana vW said...

You are inspiring me to try something I've been avoiding, so thank you!
Excellent directions!

Justin said...

wow, i guess i didn't know people could make this at home

Timothy said...

sounds fun. been meaning to try this at home since i've not been able to find a good product in stores.


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