A few weeks ago I tackled my first attempt at not only making seitan but making seitan buffalo “chicken” tenders. My friend Michelle raves about this place called Red Bamboo that supposedly has the best fake meat dishes in the city and she claims that their fake buffalo wings, which actually have a fake bone in them, is the best pho meat dish on the planet. We’ll see about that tonight Michelle…
Sometimes the worst thing that could possibly happen when you are cooking something new is that you make it perfect. What is wrong with perfect you ask? Well nothing at the time of consumption but if you are like me and aren’t really one to follow recipes exactly, or if you create dishes in the moment and do not take note of them, sometimes achieving the perfect first attempt bites you in the ass.
The first time I attempted to make buffalo “chicken” tenders blew my mind away. I even fooled a few meat eaters into thinking it was chicken, that is how dead on these things were. I eat chicken quite often and have had my share of buffalo wings and I must say that these tenders were really on the mark, which is kind of crappy, because since then I have fallen flat. The taste has been good, the spice has been just right, but the texture has not resembled chicken nearly as much as it did the first time.
Why? If I knew I wouldn’t be writing this post now would I? Today I tried to look up some recipes to see if anyone had any bright ideas…, turns out that they do not. Reason being most of the recipes say to simply cut up the seitan in the desired “chicken” shape, bread in flour, or the traditional breading method, fry, and toss in your favorite sauce. I tried the whole cut the seitan into strips, bread, and fry method and, well, it sucked.
So today I set out to recreate that perfect chicken texture. I cannot exactly be sure that I achieved perfection as I did the first time but it was at least close enough to share with you and hope that if you try you will let me know how it goes. So on todays “How To Follow A Recipe”, we are going to go through my process of how play around and work with something until you achieve the texture you are looking for.
Recipe for Seitan Buffalo “Chicken” Wings/Tenders (recipe done my way so you can do it your way)
Ingredients: 1 recipe worth of homemade Seitan (made from 2 cups of vital wheat gluten flour), Buffalo Wing Sauce, Flour, Panko Bread Crumbs, dijon or deli style mustard, mayonnaise, 1-2 eggs, salt, pepper, and any other spices you would like (garlic powder, onion powder, cajun seasoning, cayenne)
1. Make seitan according to instructions on packaging or buy in the store. (Seitan is easy to make and far more affordable if you have the time)
2. Cut up the seitan into chunks and pulse in a food processor until broken up in to chunks somewhere around the size of jelly beans but no bigger than chex mix. If you do not have a food processor you can cut the seitan up in chunks as well. The biggest mistake I made when trying to recreate this dish for the second and third time was that I pulsed and chopped up the seitan too small to the point where it looked like cooked ground beef that you would use in a taco. If I was trying to make meatless tacos this would be perfect but with the buffalo chicken tenders it was simply too soft and did not mimic meat all that well. My original hope was to form it like you would a meatball and hope that it would hold but I wasn’t thinking about how little sense that would make. Why would seitan bind itself together when ground that fine? Doy!
3. Now comes the part where you get to play around. I am not giving the exact measurements for two reasons. One, I want you to figure it out ON YOUR OWN!! And two, because I don’t have them. I am still playing around with this part though the general ingredients stay the same. What you want to do here is bind all of the chunks of seitan so that they can be battered in flour and fried without breaking apart. I put the seitan in a bowl, add about 1/4 cup of mayonnaise, 1-2 tablespoons of mustard, 1/2 cup of bread crumbs, 1/4 cup of flour, 1 egg, and then I add my usual seasonings such as garlic powder, onion powder, cajun seasoning, and salt and pepper. I’d recommend starting light with the bread crumbs and flour, and hold off on the eggs until you get the mixture tasting how you would like it. At that point scramble and add an egg, and begin adding more and more bread crumbs and flour until you are able to shape the seitan mixture without it falling apart. It does not have to be a rock solid mixture but it should not break up when you roll it in flour to fry.
4. After the seitan mixture is holding well, form it in the shape of chicken tenders, nuggets, or whatever else you would like. The first time I made these I even formed the seitan around a carrot so the carrot would act almost like a bone that you could bite through (fancy I know). You can really make any shape that you would like so play around and have some fun. At this point it may be worth trying one or two first to check for the consistency, fry them, and if they do not seem to hold quite as well as you would have liked, add more flour, an extra egg, and some more bread crumbs.
5. In a large skillet or frying pan heat enough oil over medium high heat to cover the bottom of the pan and to reach a hight of somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 of an inch.
6. In a large bowl or on a plate spread enough flour down to dredge the seitan in. Add salt, pepper, and any other spices you would like to the flour, mix with a fork, and then one by one roll the seitan tenders in the flour to coat well.
7. Fry the tenders on both sides until golden brown, lay them on some paper towels to drain, hit them with a bit of salt, and then toss them in your favorite wing sauce and enjoy with a nice side of celery and blue cheese, or in my case a honey feta dipping sauce.