(Originally posted 10/19/06)
Seitan, a vegetarian meat analog, is made from wheat gluten cooked in broth, traditionally a soy broth. Gluten is the protein found in whole wheat flour. It can be isolated from whole wheat flour by rinsing and kneading a flour/water mixture until all the starch is removed.
I used to make my own gluten from scratch back when I was in grad school. It was a lot of fun, but it was very time consuming, and it left a starchy mess that coated the entire kitchen. I finally gave it up and started making it the easy way by reconstituting store-bought gluten flour with liquid. I still miss making my own gluten. It's kind of like the difference between hunting wild game in the Boundary Waters and buying pre-packaged chicken wings at the deli counter.
The best book I have found on seitan is Cooking with Gluten and Seitan, by Dorothy R. Bates and Colby Wingate. I have had the best luck cooking seitan in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes instead of simmering it slowly. The pressure cooker gives a soft, slightly chewy seitan, whereas the simmering method always gives me a hard, rubbery seitan which is really not conducive to convincing your friends and relatives to become vegetarian.
Tonight I made glutenschnitzel, my own personal seitan recipe. It's made like vienerschnitzel or chicken schnitzel, but you don't have to pound the mean into flat cutlets. You simply slice the seitan into thin cutlets (about 1/4 inch thick).
I prepare three separate shallow bowls: one with white flour, one with an egg beaten with 1-2 teaspoons of water, and a third with bread crumbs. I coat the seitan cutlet with flour, transfer it to the egg and coat it completely, and then transfer the eggy cutlet to the bread crumbs. Each cutlet is then fried in about 1/4 inch thick of vegetable oil. I flip the cutlet over and fry the other side when the first side browns.
I usually serve Glutenschnitzel with a tomato sauce, such as a commercial spaghetti sauce.
Note: It is important to remember that like most meat analogs, seitan tastes and feels SIMILAR to meat but not EXACTLY LIKE meat. It is its own animal, so to speak. I find it important to appreciate seitan for what it is, rather than what it isn't.