I may have had seitan in my youth but I’m pretty sure I ate it for the first time last week, in a really glorious shepherd’s pie that I intend to recreate soon with tablespoons and camera in hand. Homemade seitan looks pretty much like brains, even when you slice it up, and there was some leftover after the pie. I’ve been on a quest for a meat-free way to recreate one of my favorite comfort dishes, spam and rice (thanks Katherine!), and it occurred to me that maybe these leftover gluten lobes would fry up nicely.

They do. They really do. I’m a new seitan convert now, as is Ruth, who both made off with the bag of gluten in the night, and immediately jumped up on the counter when I fished the lobes out of their broth and began licking them when I turned my head. That cat likes some weird stuff, for a cat.

The chinese broccoli, or gai lan, is my green of choice for this comfort meal. In the past I’ve cooked it very simply–some oil, salt, red pepper flakes. When I made it a few days ago though I found a lone shiitake in the fridge, and a few giant serrano chiles, so I added them. As it turns out a little mushroom is a very welcome addition to these wonder greens, which combine the satisfying stems of broccoli with leaves that are substantial but not at all bitter. I love gai lan. If you want really mushroomy greens, use 1/3 lb. of shiitakes–this is quite a lot. If you want to taste the greens though, go easy–a handful of mushrooms will be plenty. (I went full throttle in this incarnation of the dish and regretted it a little.)

The crisped seitan becomes a vehicle for one of my favorite condiments, hot mustard–I will eat egg rolls, which I don’t particularly like, if it means I get to slather something in hot mustard. Actually, the whole dish is basically a condiment party; Alex and I used no fewer than four different condiments when we ate this. Also: great leftovers.

Crispy Seitan with Chinese Broccoli and Hot Mustard
serves 4

1 lb. seitan (I used this recipe; you can buy it pre-made too)
1/2 C AP flour
3 T brewer’s or nutritional yeast
1 t kosher salt
1/4 t black pepper
4 T canola oil, divided

2 bunches chinese broccoli (gai lan)
shiitake mushrooms, anywhere from a handful to 1/3 lb., sliced
1 serrano chili or jalapeno, very thinly sliced
2 T canola oil
1 t kosher salt

rice for serving
condiments of choice: rice vinegar, sriracha, prepared chinese hot mustard, gomasio.

Drain the seitan and slice it into 1 cm slices. In a small bowl whisk together the flour, yeast, salt, and pepper, and dump the result onto a plate. Dredge each piece of seitan in the flour mixture, really pressing down. The seitan is quite wet and will hold onto a lot of the flour if you press. Place the dredged slices of seitan on a cooling rack and let them be for now.

[dredged seitan is pretty ugly]

Now, onto the gai lan. Slice off the dried stem-ends and discard. Then slice the stems into 1 cm pieces. Wash and drain the stems and set them aside. Now slice the leafy part into 1 inch ribbons. Submerge them in a big bowl of water, wash them thoroughly, and pull them out to drain in a colander.

Time to start multi-tasking. In a large frypan that has a lid, or even better, a dutch oven, heat 2 T canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and 1/2 t kosher salt. Saute these for 3 minutes or so, until they start to soften. Now add the gai lan stems. Stir, and throw a lid on the pan. Fry/steam for 2 minutes. During this time, heat a medium-sized frypan over medium-high heat and add 2 T canola oil. Add half the seitan slices and swirl the oil around to make sure they’re all getting nicely fried. These cook about 4 minutes per side, until they’re browned and crispy.

Take the lid off the pot of greens, crank the heat to high, and add the chiles. Fry for a minute or so, and then add the gai lan ribbons and another 1/2 t kosher salt. Start stirring; the leaves will begin to wilt almost immediately, so it gets easier to stir them around. They have a lot of water to release so you can ignore them a bit now. Back to the seitan; flip the slices using a fork and swirl the oil around again. These don’t stick AT ALL which is so nice.

Now you’re just finishing up. Remove this batch of seitan slices once they’re browned on both sides and set them on the cooling rack. Add the remaining 2 T canola oil to the fry pan and crisp up the second batch of seitan slices on both sides. By now the water may be all boiled off from the greens; at that point they’re done so just keep checking. Don’t worry if your multi-tasking doesn’t result in perfect culinary simultaneity. The greens are happy with a lid on them, staying warm, and if the seitan is done first that’s ok too–it stays crisp if you put it on the cooling rack.

Serve with rice (I cooked mine in the seitan broth). I like a little rice vinegar on my greens, and a pretty hefty drizzle of hot mustard over the seitan.

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