Sunday, March 25, 2012

Seitan au Poivre

Once upon a time, I was a culinary school student. My chefs were classically trained in the European, Escoffier ways of gastronomy. The methods we learned were steeped in centuries of tradition. They were hardly vegan or heart friendly; using plenty of high fat animal products. I must admit back in those days, I loved trying all the new and exciting techniques and favors I was being introduced to.

One of my ultimate favorite meat based dishes from back then was Steak au Poivre. This was a decadent dish made with beef tenderloin coated in black peppercorns. The filet was then seared, flamed with brandy, smothered with a rich demiglace and garnished with fresh chopped parsley. We cooked it table side at the school's student run restaurant. It was one of our most popular dishes. It was quite a show! One time, my partner and I were doing several orders at once. I loved the big flame, so I used a pretty healthy dose of brandy and promptly singed my bangs. Not an appetizing smell, that burnt hair. But it was pretty entertaining.

In this more compassionate version, you can still get the big show. I am going to suggest you leave out the flaming hair. The tenderloin is replaced by seitan steak. Panko crumbs are added to the peppercorns to add a hint of a crunchy texture. The peppercorns give a wonderful peppery bite and texture to the steaks. The rich velvety sauce makes you feel like you are in a five star restaurant. Steak au Poivre is traditionally served with potatoes. Tonight toasted Israeli cous cous with walnuts worked as a fun stand in. I had some chard in the fridge that I paid far too much for at Whole Foods. This was simply sauteed in olive oil with caramelized red onion, a touch of lemon juice, salt and pepper.

I have to admit, I did this from memory and I missed a couple of components that I realized after the fact, but it was still very tasty! In the classic version there is often an addition of mustard, and you certainly can add it if you please. In all honesty, it is excellent without it. I made extra sauce/gravy for potatoes later on.

Seitan au Poivre

4 servings sauce, 2 servings seitan steaks

For the Sauce 

2 tablespoons vegan butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons shallots, minced
4 oz cremini mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups strong vegetable broth
1 1/2 teaspoon kitchen bouquet (browning sauce)

In a 1 qt saucepan over medium heat, melt vegan butter. When butter is melted add olive oil, garlic and shallots. Saute until shallots are translucent. Add mushrooms and saute until they just soft and release their liquid, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in flour to coat. Cook for about 2-3 minutes further. Whisk in vegetable broth and kitchen bouquet until smooth. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

For Steaks

4 - 3 oz. seitan steaks (I used the Beefy Seitan recipe from American vegan kitchen)
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
1 teaspoon corn starch
3 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons very coarsely ground peppercorns
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons brandy
chopped parsley for garnish

Set up breading station. Combine soy milk and corn starch in a shallow bowl. In a separate bowl mix the panko crumbs and peppercorns. Dip steaks, one at a time in soy milk mixture, making sure they are completely coated. Dredge in the panko mixture making sure the steaks are coated. Transfer to plate in a single layer.

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in 10 inch iron skillet or other heavy bottomed skillet (do not use non-stick coated pan here). The oil should be hot, but not smoking before adding the steaks. Add the steaks making sure they are not touching. Sear for about 3 minutes on each side. When the steaks are seared (browned and slightly crunchy), quickly add the brandy. Carefully flame the brandy using a stick lighter. When the flame goes out, add about 1 cup of the sauce. It will bubble a little bit from the hot pan.  Using a spatula, transfer to serving plate. Spoon sauce remaining in the pan over the steaks (and potatoes if serving). Garnish with fresh parsley.

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