Who doesn’t love seeing a Julia Child recipe veganized?
Well, I’d guess it would make Julia roll over in her grave, but it’s a great thing for us vegans, and others who would like to eat less meat.
There are a number of vegans out there who are veganizing Julia’s recipes, perhaps due to the popularity of Julie & Julia. But probably the most popular adaptation is the recipe for Beouf Bourguinion, known to us vegans as Seitan Bourguinion.
There’s a problem that I’ve encountered when I’d tried making it before based on other vegan adaptations already in the blogosphere. Take a look at this picture of my earlier attempt.
Take a look at the sauce. It’s quite runny, and that’s after I added a cornstarch slurry to thicken it.
Why is my sauce so thin?
If you look at the original recipe, you’ll see that it calls for 3 pounds of beef.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not likely to use 3 pounds of seitan in its place. That’s fine, because 3 lbs of raw beef won’t be 3 pounds once it’s cooked, as fat will render and fluid will release. Seitan doesn’t do that.
Worried about the cost of seitan? It’s not hard to make at home!
So, using half as much seitan is perfectly fine.
The other problem is, Julia wants you to braise in the oven for 3-4 hours. Braising is a technique developed to make tough cuts of meat more tender. You can braise seitan as long as you like, but it won’t ever get more tender like meat (it should be “tender” to begin with).
Braising does do something nice for the seitan, but you won’t need to braise nearly as long.
- Since the seitan won’t be braising as long, less liquid will cook off.
- Since seitan is not meat, less liquid will be absorbed.
- Since seitan is not meat, no fat will be rendered into the sauce.
- Finally, since you’re using less seitan to begin with, you’ll end up with seitan swimming in runny sauce if you go with the original amounts.
You have to account for the differences in composition.
It’s a combination of fat + starch that makes sauces thick.
Every adaptation I’ve seen calls for 3 cups of red wine and 2 cups of vegetable broth. That’s just far too much! Even if you want a lot of extra sauce, you’d have to add in quite a bit of oil to accommodate for the fact that seitan does not contain appreciable amounts of fat (it has something, but nothing like meat).
So, with a few changes, you can go from a high-fat meat-based meal, to a low-fat plant-based meal, while still retaining all of the flavor!
The original recipe also does call for bacon. I’ve seen veganized recipes that use vegan bacon, and that’s certainly an option.
But what do you really get out of the bacon?
Three things: fat, salt and smoke flavor.
Vegan bacon can get you a smokey-salty flavor, but it won’t give off very much fat. I personally don’t think the recipe needs a vegan bacon substitute, but a little smoked salt or liquid smoke can give it that little something.
I made my own seitan for this recipe, using a recipe from Veggie Works Vegan Cookbook. Next time I’m going to try from scratch, like I learned in the seitan class I took not too long ago. If you have to use store-bought, that’s okay, but I highly recommend getting some vital wheat gluten and making your own!
As you can see from the above photos, you can serve with rice or mashed potatoes, but you’re not limited to those. Some like to serve it over a nice whole wheat pasta, but you could also cook up a more exotic grain, like wheat berries, barley, farro, or freekeh.
One final note: you’ll need two pieces of “special” equipment beyond a knife and cutting board for this: a cast iron Dutch oven, and a metal spatula, or at least a regular dutch oven (or large-ish pot) and a covered casserole dish. The Dutch oven will need to go into the (regular) oven. Also, when you brown the seitan, you’ll need a spatula that can really scrape the bottom of the pan- a plastic one won’t cut it.
- 2 tsp olive oil
- a few drops liquid smoke, optional
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 1.5 lbs seitan (beef style, preferably)
- 2 tbs all-purpose flour
- 1.5 cups vegan red wine
- 1.5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 tbs tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp thyme (or fresh sprig, if you have it)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig parsley
- salt & pepper to taste
- smoked salt, optional
- chopped fresh parley to garnish
- Preheat your oven to 450F.
- Heat the oil in your Dutch oven over medium. You can add a few drops of liquid smoke here if you like. When hot, add the seitan to brown. This will take several minutes. When you turn the meat, make sure to use a metal spatula, as the seitan may stick. When browned, remove seitan from pan and set aside.
- Add the sliced onions and carrots to the pan and sauté. If they stick, you can use a little vegetable broth to loosen them up, but they shouldn’t on a well-seasoned cast iron pan. When the onions are brown, add the garlic and shallots to the mixture, and sauté until fragrant.
- Return the seitan to the Dutch oven. Sprinkle with salt (or smoked salt) and pepper, as well as the flour. Mix together.
- Put uncovered Dutch oven in the preheated oven, and cook for four minutes
- Remove Dutch oven back to stovetop. Reduce oven heat to 375F.
- Add the wine, vegetable stock, tomato paste, thyme, bay left, and sprig of parsley. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.
- Return covered Dutch oven to the 375F oven. Braise for 1 hour.
- Before serving, remove the bay leaf, sprig of parsley (and sprig of thyme, if you used one), and stir in the chopped parsley.
There you have a delicious, hearty meal where you won’t be missing any meat or any flavor! Go on, try it! It would be perfect for a special occasion or for a Meatless Monday!