Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Braised Seitan Medallions in a Wine-Demi-glace

I have the world's most enormous backlog of recipes to post about. It's like I'm suffering from recipe-posting-constipation or something. MUST TO LOOSEN UP THE BOWELS!

BUT TODAY, Laloofah will be happy to know (since she is bossy and insisted the other day that I need to Hezbollah-ize a Bourdain recipe already or she would punch me in the boob), I will be posting a Hebollah-ized recipe.

Duh duh-duh duhhhhh <--the sound of trumpets and fanfare

If you're not hip to the whole Bourdain-Hezbollah-Tofu saga, click HERE to get caught up to speed, and HERE for other recipes.

Anyways, I'd been wanting to try veganizing this veal shanks recipe for a while, mostly because most of us veg*ns agree that veal is the most egregious and misguided form of meat-consumption.

Plus, Bourdain had stated in an interview that "life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living," so I of course felt the urge to try veganizing one of these items as a friendly fuck you to the man. So I settled on the challenge of fiddling with the notorious veal demi-glace.

I wish I would've seen the following blurb from a Bourdain article prior to today, since it would've made my demiglacing much easier:

Simply take your reduced meat stock, add some red wine, toss in some shallots and fresh thyme and a bayleaf and peppercorns, and slowly, slowly simmer it and reduce it again until it coats a spoon. Strain. Freeze this stuff in an ice-cube tray, pop out a cube or two as needed, and you can rule the world. (Both Bourdain quotes are from THIS article)

But instead I tooled around the internet and researched what went into a demi-glace, ending up modifying a recipe I found on-line (one which was probably much more elaborate than necessary, but c'est la vie).

Basically, a demi-glace is 1/2 veal (or other meat)-stock, 1/2 espagnole. (Variations in a demi-glace recipe abound--many of them call for red wine to be included as well.)

Espagnole, on the other hand, is prepared by making "a very dark brown roux, to which are added several gallons of veal stock or water, along with 20–30 lb (9–14 kg) of browned bones, pieces of beef, many pounds of vegetables, and various seasonings. This blend is allowed to slowly reduce while being frequently skimmed. The classical recipe calls for additional veal stock to be added as the liquid gradually reduces but today water is generally used instead. Tomato sauce is added towards the end of the process, and the sauce is further reduced."

I decided that I would make a smaller-portioned, veganized version of this espagnole recipe and then mix that with an equal part "stock" to create my demi-glace. (My stock, I decided, would be equal parts strong brewed coffee--for a rich deep flavor--and vegetable broth.)

Now that I've read the above blurb from Bourdain, I wish I would've done so sooner as it sounds SO much easier. But maybe that'll just give me a good reason to try this again with a new demi-glace.

The long and short of it is this: I decided to make seitan "shanks" instead of veal shanks, bathed in a rich wine-demi-glace reduction.

  1. I decided to whip up a modified version of the simple seitan recipe from Veganomicon, subbing in coffee in place of the soy sauce, for a deeper, more husky flavor. I debated between using the seitan cutlet recipe (which involves baking the seitan) and the simple seitan recipe (which requires simmering the seitan in a pot on the stove) for a little while before settling on the simple seitan recipe. Why? Because it says right in the book that the simple seitan is more tender and less chewy. And, unfortunately, that's the attraction of veal: tenderness. So I figured it made sense. Unfortunately, as I quickly realized, boiled seitan is lumpy and ugly. I had wanted to make a pretty "shank" of some sort, but unfortunately it ended up looking more brainy than pretty. *sighing*

  2. After all was said and done, the sauce in this recipe came out WAY thicker than it should have. It was REALLY good. But it was thick like sweet and sour sauce, which obviously isn't the way a demi-glace is supposed to be.

    What the consistency of demi-glace SHOULD be

    I think what may have caused this problem has to do with surface-area, weirdly enough. Since the original veal recipe calls for veal patties, and mine were moreso little chunks, I think this caused the sauce to thicken up more because it had more surface area to cling desperately to and more flour-coating from the seitan to incidentally thicken up the sauce. So the end result wasn't thin and wine-like, it was thick and sweet-and-soury-looking.

  3. I was a little bit nervous about the demi-glace initially as it tasted REALLY kind of creepy. I kept thinking that maybe it DID taste weirdly bloody and meatlike and that's why I was grossed out by it. But it's been so long that I'm not even sure anymore when something actually tastes like meat or not. Once it was incorporated in with the rest of the wine-sauce, however, all was well.

  4. This is a really long-winded recipe, but would be much simpler if you just BOUGHT two pounds of seitan or whipped it up a few days before so it didn't seem so overwhelming.


I used a lot of coffee in this recipe, and I think it lended a throaty, jazz-singery, deep flavor to everything, making it taste a bit more meaty than it otherwise would have. This recipe is also a VERY rich, very butter/oil-laden, so be forewarned (*activating the SusanV Alarm*). I have not had such a rich dish in a really long time, and, though I really liked it, it was definitely more decadent than I'm used to.

Despite the clumpiness of the sauce, and despite my initial reservations about the way the demi-glace tasted before being incorporated with the rest of the sauce, I was super-surprised and delighted that the end product tasted so rich and sexy and delicious. Bourdain would no doubt scoff at my inability to create a like-textured demi-glace, but that just gives me reason to try this out again. And regardless of whether he would scoff, I was pleased with the end result.

Oh yeah, and I get to purr the word GRRRRRRRRRRRRREMOLATA again, as this recipe also called for a gremolata. The first night I had this, I forgot the gremolata (you can see the naked medallions in the pic below--the sauce looks prettier than in the other pics, but it's gremolata-less, so I decided to take pics of the leftovers as well), so as you can see, the dish and sauce looks sexier but more barren. Last night, I used the gremolata on my leftovers, and it definitely prettied it up and offered up a strange but lovely contrast to the rich decadence of the rest of the dish. That's GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREMOLATA for you!

So, would I make this again in precisely the same way as I did below? Probably not, simply because it was so time-consuming.

Will I make this again in SOME form or another? Hell yes. Because it was damn tasty.

Changes I will make next time:
  • Use tomato sauce or reserved juice from the can of whole-tomatoes instead of the tomato paste.

  • Try it with the seitan cutlets instead of the simple seitan.

  • Perhaps incorporate some wine into the demi-glace itself.

  • Thin out the sauce a bit more.

Anyways, here are links to all the original recipes:

Espagnole recipe

Braised Veal Shanks recipe



  • 2 c. vital wheat gluten

  • 1/4 c. + 2 T. nutritional yeast

  • 1 c. cold vegetable broth

  • 1/2 c. cold brewed coffee (brewed strong)

  • 2 T. olive oil

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced finely

  • 16 c. cold water plus 6 bouillon cubes

  • 1/4 c. soy sauce

  • [Alternately, you could just buy 2 lbs. of pre-made seitan]


  • 1/4 c. onions, diced

  • 2 T. carrots, cut into chunks

  • 2 T. celery, diced

  • 2 T. vegan margarine

  • 2 T. flour

  • 1 c. veggie stock

  • 1 c. strong coffee

  • 2 T. tomato paste

  • bay leaf

  • pinch of thyme

  • pinch of parsley

  • Stew:

  • 1 c. of your vegan demi-glace

  • 2 lbs. of seitan

  • 1/2 t. salt

  • pinch of black pepper

  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 T. olive oil (this may vary--you'll be using whatever amount it takes to cook up your seitan once it's floured)

  • 1.5 T. vegan margarine

  • 1 c. onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice

  • 1/2 c. carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice

  • 1/2 c. celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice

  • 1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 3/4 c. dry red wine (I used Yellowtail Merlot)

  • 1 (14-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice, drained and coarsely chopped

  • 1 bay leaf

  • Gremolata:

  • 1 t. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • 1/2 t. finely grated fresh orange zest

  • 1/4-1/2 t. finely chopped fresh rosemary

  • 1/4-1/2 t. finely chopped fresh thyme


For the seitan:

In a large mixing bowl, mix together your nutritional yeast and vital wheat gluten.

In a separate bowl, mix together all other ingredients except the water and soy sauce.

Pour the wet into the dry and mix until all the wet and dry ingredients have combined. Knead for 3 minutes or so, until the dough is elastic. Divide into 6 separate chunks.

Fill a large pot with water, bouillon cubes, and soy sauce. Add the wheat gluten chunks. Cover and bring to a boil, but watch carefully--try to lower it as low as it will go as soon as it boils, so that it's at a low simmer.

Partially cover pot, and simmer for an hour, moving the seitan around occasionally. Turn off the head, remove the lid, and let sit for 15 minutes.

Remove from broth and place in strainer until cool.

For the demi-glace:

In a sauce pan, cook the onions, carrots, and celery in the vegan margarine until browned. Add the flour to make a roux. Stir in only 1/2 c. of veggie stock, 1/2 c. coffee, and tomato paste. Continue to stir until it boils. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. This is your espagnole.

After 20 minutes, your espagnole should've thickened up some. Add in the rest of your veggie stock as well as your coffee. Simmer for about 10 more minutes, stirring frequently, and then set aside.

For the stew:

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 350°F.

Take your 1/2 c. of flour and put it in a large container with a lid. Toss your seitan in with it, in two batches, shaking until they are coated with flour. Shake off any excess. Set seitan aside.

Heat your oil in a pot over moderately high heat until just smoking, then brown your seitan on all sides. You will probably need to do this in two batches, adding a bit more oil between the two. (If some of your pieces of seitan still have white patches of flour that haven't been browned, don't worry. All will be well once you toss it in the oven.) Transfer your seitan to a plate and set aside.

Add vegan margarine to your pot and heat until foam subsides, then sauté onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 9 minutes.

Add wine, scraping up any brown bits, then add only 1 c. of your warm demi-glace, tomatoes, and bay leaf.

Transfer your wine sauce to a 9 x 13 rimmed pan. Place your seitan in the pan as well, stirring gently until all your seitan is coated. Cover pan tightly with foil.

Cook for about 40-50 minutes, (or until sauce is clearly heated through and seitan is tender) stirring once or twice.

For the gremolata:

Stir together parsley, zest, rosemary, and thyme. Set aside.

All together now:

You can serve this over a plethora of things. The original recipe calls for it to be served over a wild mushroom risotto. I served mine over a bed of arborio rice, topped with tender, broiled asparagus. Sprinkle with the gremolata before serving.


(Serves between 4-8)

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