I said, “I’ll take the T-bone steak.”
A soft voice mooed, “Oh wow.”
And I looked up and realized
The waitress was a cow.
I cried, “Mistake—forget the steak.”
This week, I debated over whether to make burgers or steak. I felt more confident in my ability to make a veggie burger that was actually enjoyable, but I thought making steak would be more impressive. Either way, I wanted to use the grill now that the weather has finally taken a turn for the better. Unfortunately, after sitting, unused, all winter, the grill wasn’t immediately up for the task, and, as I was cooking on a time crunch, I abandoned my dream of grilling and settled for using the oven (and a pot).
Eventually, I settled on making steak. Once upon a time, my parents went to a restaurant where my father ordered a delicious steak. Allegedly, he ate the whole thing before realizing that what he had ordered was actually seitan, and not meat. I never really believed it was possible to eat a seitan steak without realizing that it wasn’t beef, and after my experience this week, I really don’t believe it. Granted, a restaurant chef was probably able to put together something far better than I was able to do, but still.
When I gathered the ingredients listed in the recipe, created by vegan blogger Sandra Vungi, I was little bit concerned. I had four different kinds of powder (salt is really more a crystal than a powder, but who cares) and soy sauce—those things do not a steak make. But I followed the recipe and mixed my vital wheat gluten flour with my nutritional yeast, and a bit of seasoning.
Fun fact: the recipe that I used called for 1 cup or 165 grams of vital wheat gluten flour (the blogger is not from the US), and, for some reason, I interpreted what was obviously the weight in ounces as grams, so I accidentally bought three times as much flour as I needed and have no idea what to do with it.
After adding the water and soy sauce, the ingredients came together into sort of a spongey dough. I kneaded the ball (to activate the gluten apparently), and let it sit for a few minutes.
In the meantime, I put a pot of water, soy sauce, and bay leaves on the stove and let it come to a boil, before turning the heat down so it could simmer.
Returning to the “steak dough,” I did a bit more kneading, flattened it into a pancake, and then divided it in two—the recipe said to divide it in four, but I thought that the pieces would be too small.
I dropped the “steaks” into the simmering liquid and loosely covered the pot. Once I added the “steaks,” the liquid stopped simmering—probably because the temperature had changed with the recent addition to the pot—and then I alternated between having the temperature either too high or too low; I never reached a good simmer again. But I tried for the next 40 minutes. Even though the “steaks” were fully submerged, I flipped them over halfway through.
After their time on the stove was up, I removed the “steaks” from the pot and placed them on a pile of paper towels on a dish. I put another stack of paper towels on top of the “steaks” and then squished them with another dish in an attempt to remove any excess liquid. After that, the steaks were finished. Or so I thought.
As has become a common occurrence, I realized, after the fact, that I made a mistake due to my having not read the recipe carefully, or just fully in this case. Instead of following the recipe on my computer, I printed a copy. The “steak”-cooking portion seem to end at the bottom of the first page—right before instructions for gravy began. I had no intentions of making gravy, so I didn’t bother to turn the recipe over. As a result, I missed the direction to fry the “steak” until it was crispy on both sides. A crispy outside would have improved the texture of the”steak,” and it would have more closely mimicked the charred outside of a beef steak.
Cooking the steak was a lot less involved than cooking the “steak.”
I rubbed both sides with kosher salt and pepper, and it was ready to cook.
Then, I placed the steak on an ungreased broiler pan (I had to google “slotted pan” and look at pictures to figure out what it was actually called), and broiled it for 16 minutes—flipping halfway—per my mother’s instructions. My family likes steak cooked medium-well; I tried to use the hand trick to determine the temperature, but I don’t know if I would have known it was medium-well just by touch. I let the steak rest before slicing it (like they do on cooking shows).
When I did finally slice the steak, the ends—which were thinner and narrower than the middle portion—were well done, but the middle still had a tinge of pink.
While I normally cook midweek and make dinner, time got away from me this week. I found myself with a small window to cook sometime between when I awoke on Sunday morning and when I had to be at work at 4:00 PM. To avoid making my parents eat a steak dinner in the middle of the afternoon (I also bought potatoes and frozen creamed spinach, in the event I did go that route), I prepared a steak salad, instead, which seemed more afternoon-appropriate.
I thought the steak looked too well done, but my parents said it was cooked just right, and I really know nothing about steak temperatures, so I’m taking their word for it.
I would have liked to end on that pretty picture, but, alas, there is one more. I didn’t make my “steak” into a salad, partly because I was running late for work and partly because I didn’t know how it would taste with anything else. Here’s what I will say about the “steak”: it was not the worst thing I have ever eaten. And I ate the whole thing—as I write, I’m eating the other. I think that frying the “steaks” and/or choosing a recipe that involved more ingredients would have made this meal more enjoyable. Also, accoutrements make a big difference. I ate the first”steak” with A1 sauce, and it was fine. For the second “steak,” I attempted to make a horseradish cream and covered the “steak” in blue cheese. Overall, it’s nice to have found a relatively easy recipe for a relatively steaky meal.