This is my nerdy holiday dish.
Nerdy, because it's complicated, and delicate.
Holiday, because it's impressive, very rich, and goes best with 30 degree weather.
It's a definite undertaking - you'll want to start a day ahead if you're following the recipe exactly. But the layers of soft, yummy seitan, mushrooms, tomatoes both fresh and dried, nutmeg and cinnamon, and let's not forget the towering layer of fluffy, decadent, rich bechamel, well, it's guaranteed food coma, but yum yum yummy. A dish to tell your vegetarian friends that you love and appreciate them. Or even argue that meatless food can be as deeply flavorful as meatfull.
Just make sure there's salad nearby. Or simple, blanched green beans.
Mushroom Seitan Moussaka
For the seitan:
2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/2 garbanzo flour
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1.5 tablespoons fennel seeds, whole
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon roasted garlic powder
1 tablespoon parsley
1 tablespoon freshly fround black pepper
1 tablespoon smoked salt
You can add other herbs here, if you'd like: rubbed sage, thyme, ground rosemary. I just stuck with the above this time.
1/2 cup olive oil + dash truffle oil
6 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tsp smoke flavoring
2/3 cup water
4-5 cups water (plus 6 tablespoons tamari) or veggie broth
4 bay leaves
10 cloves garlic
1 red onion, sliced
A medium-sized crock pot
Mix your dry ingredients well and make a well in the center. In another bowl, mix your wet ingredients. Using a fork or your fingers, mix continually while pouring the wet mix in, until the dough balls up. Knead in the bowl for a minute, until everything is well incorporated.
Layer the onion in the bottom of the pot and place the seitan on top. Pour broth around the roast and add garlic cloves and bay leaves. Cook on low for 4 hours.
Usually, I make the seitan the day before and let it sit in the warmish broth all night. Makes for soft, but firm.
For this next step, you'll need:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Canola oil, to fry
Using the chopping blade on your food processor, mince the seitan. Cut it into small, uniformly sized pieces first, then pule 4-5 times until the mixture has been broken down into mostly small, quarter-sized chunks. Do this in three batches to keep things uniform.
In a large bowl, mix the seitan with the flour until well-coated on all sides. Add a little more flour, if you need to.
Heat your canola oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add half of your seitan. Press down into the oil and let it cook for 2-3 minutes, until browning has occured. Flip the seitan carefully and press into the oil again, cook for another 2-3 minutes, then drain on paper towels. Repeat with other 1/2 batch.
For the rest of the filling, you'll need:
1 20oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes in oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red onion, minced
1 handful white raisins, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, minced
1 tsp cloves, ground
Several grates fresh nutmeg
Several grates cinnamon
Red wine, 1/2 cup
Smoked salt, tsp (or to taste)
Dash sugar or molasses
2 medium yukon gold potatoes, sliced thin
2 pounds baby bella mushrooms, sliced thin
2 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
Heat the sundried tomatoes and their oil in a small saute pan or skillet. Add the onion, celery, and garlic, and cook 3-4 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and simmer off the alcohol, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, 1/2 their juice, the raisins, and 2/3 of the seitan. Mix well. Add sugar and simmer mixture about 10 minutes, until very thick.
In a separate pan or skillet, melt the butter. Add garlic and mushrooms and toss to coat. Cook over medium heat until the mushrooms have released their liquid and it has evaporated, about 18-20 minutes, stirring often.
For the bechamel topping, you'll need:
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk, warmed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup gruyere cheese, finely grated
4 egg yolks
Grated parmesian or extra gruyere, to top
Melt the butter in a skillet or small saucepan. Add garlic and salt. Add flour and whisk until flour turns golden, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in warmed milk. Return pan to heat and whisk mixture until it thickens, 3-4 minutes. Add cheese and whisk until mixture is very smooth and cheese has totally melted. Remove sauce from heat and stir in yolks, breaking them up and mixing them in thoroughly as well. Set sauce aside, covered with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.
Assemble and bake:
Preheat oven to 375f.
Butter a deep 8x8 baking dish. Layer potatoes on the bottom, followed by mushrooms, then seitan mixture, then bechamel. Cover and bake 30 minutes until bubbling: add remaining cheese and bake uncovered 20 minutes more, until top has browned a bit and bubbling has ceased.
Let rest 15 minutes before slicing and serving, otherwise it'll be mess.
Sub sliced, salted eggplant, 3 large, roasted for 10 minutes in a 350f oven for the Seitan mixture.
Use double the mushrooms (4 pounds) and create the tomato sauce with them instead, adding diced carrot, celeriac, or fennel as well.
Use yogurt and egg yolks for the topping for a lighter version - but still top with the parmesan.
Pureed silken tofu, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast, mixed with a little egg replacer and corn starch, topped with breadcrumbs, is a suitable vegan topping. Bake the entire casserole uncovered for the full 50 minutes if you go this way :)