Recipe Review: UnRibs from The Homemade Vegan Pantry

I love seitan. That really doesn’t have the same impact when I write it… It’s pronounced say-tan, in case you didn’t know.

Despite being a cheese and egg eating omnivore, I’ve always enjoyed a good chunk of seitan. Back when I lived in Ottawa, I would make a stuffing-flavoured loaf, fragrant with sage and studded with dried cranberries, and we’d slice it thinly for sandwiches, or cut off thick slabs to smother with gravy for dinner.

I’ve been experimenting more in the kitchen again these days, especially with vegan and vegetarian dishes, so I revisited The Homemade Vegan Pantry by Miyoko Schinner, which I picked up a couple summers back.

This week, we made UnRibs, her take on ribs slathered in barbeque sauce, from her early days mass producing meat substitutes.

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I am not going to share the recipe today since it’s in her cookbook, which you should get. And because you can access it online at one of the many blogs she’s already given permission to share it, like this one, or this one.

What I will offer is my experience making the recipe.

I started off with the ratio she suggests of  2 1/2 cups of vital wheat gluten, but added a bit more because I realized I’d used 1 1/2 cups of water instead of 1 1/4 cups. I didn’t exceed her upper limit of 3 cups of vital wheat gluten, despite using more water, and yet my mixture was dry, pebbly, and hard to work with. It broke apart in the stand mixer and it was hard to bring it all back together, even with quite a bit of elbow grease. I would use less wheat gluten next time, for sure!

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Once I had the dough formed, I sliced it up and browned it some some peanut oil. Then, I made her barbeque sauce recipe – which was quite good! – and smothered the ribs with it, tossing them in the oven at 350.

I checked after an hour and could not believe how much they had puffed up! I had to switch pans and shuffle them around a little to ensure there were no chunks sticking too far out of the sauce. I gave them another 30 minutes and then took them out.

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After resting them for about 15 minutes, I sliced them into rib sized slices, and blackened them in a heck of a lot of oil. Don’t be shy here if you like flavour. This isn’t diet food, stop fearing the fat.

Due to baking them in barbeque sauce, they blackened fairly easily. I cooked them in batches, and tossed them as they finished into a hot pan with the rest of the sauce. I like heating the sauce up before the final coating rather than just tossing the ribs in uncooked sauce. The flavour improves with a bit of heat, “raw” it’s a little too garlicky and tomato…y.

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The final result? Brady gave the meal (baked Yukon Golds and a wedge salad using my regular dressing) a 9.5. He ate more ribs than he would have if they were pork ribs, I think. I was most curious about his verdict, so this was pretty impressive.

I might give them a 7 out of 10, but I think I have to work on my interpretation of the recipe a bit more. They wound up being fairly dense and homogeneous in their texture, so I think I’ll use less vital wheat gluten, and bake them for a little less time.

I’m also curious about adding something like jack fruit or mushrooms to the mixture to see what happens to the texture… an adventure for another time. All in all, very worth making, and a dang good treat on a Wednesday night!

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