The broiler is the most underrated kitchen appliance. Everyone has it: that mystery drawer under your oven with the slotted pan in it. Is it a storage space? Grease-catcher? Who dares to crank the oven all the way up to full blast–the ominous ‘BROIL’ setting–and conquer this uncharted territory? Last night, I boldly opened that screechy drawer, washed the dust from the broiler pan, and went where no seitan has gone before [atleast, in my kitchen].
Midwinter broiling is like a shot of Vitamin D to the palate. It evokes the charred, smoky flavor of a backyard cookout–to cure winter blues, cabin fever and restless tastebud syndrome–without the fuss of igniting charcoal or scraping a sticky grate.
To ensure a successful broil, follow these tips:
1. Select firm ingredients, like seitan, that can stand up to high heat. With that in mind, be creative! Blue potatoes? Caulifower? Why not? Follow the seasons and your senses.
2. Preheat your broiler 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven. Get it hot.
3. If your broiler pan has different height settings, start cooking on the one furthest from the heat source so your food has a chance to cook through, without burning. Then upgrade for the last few minutes to get your char on.
4. Rotate. Food should be evenly cooked on all sides. And while you rotate, marinate! Unlike lamb or swordfish, vegan ingredients don’t have layers of fat and will need extra moisture to keep from drying out under intense heat.
5. Cook on a baking pan instead of your broiler pan. It will catch all the beautiful, flavorful juices dripping off your food, to make sauce with later. Make sure the pan (and skewers) fit inside the broiler.
This was the entrée I’d originally intended for my holiday feast. It is now possible with the ‘loaves’ of seitan I finally found at Commodities Market, made by Massachusetts tofu producer The Bridge. Other kinds I’d found only came in un-skewerable shreds.
Exotic Spiced Seitan and Pumpkin Kebabs
1/2 tsp ground fenugreek 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 lemon, juiced optional: 2 tbp tahini
salt and pepper, to taste to garnish: a few sprigs of fresh mint, chopped
In a bowl, toss the seitan, pumpkin & vegetable of your choice with 1/4 cup olive oil and all the spices and dried herbs until evenly coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
If you’ll serve these over rice, prepare it now to your liking.
Skewer the contents of the bowl along with the onion quarters. Lay skewers on baking pan. Combine the remaining olive oil with any spice residue left in the bowl. Brush the kebabs with this, sprinkle an additional pinch of salt, if desired, and transfer them to broiler.
Check every 5 minutes and turn skewers as necessary to cook evenly, and brush with excess marinade. When pumpkin is tender, elevate pan to highest setting and char for about 1-2 minutes on each side, to reach desired texture and color.
Remove kebabs from oven and brush with any remaining marinade. Transfer to plates or serving platter (you may opt to remove the skewers).
Add lemon juice to the baking pan and stir to scrape up any leftover browned bits. Season to taste and drizzle over the plates or toss into serving bowl. Optional: pour the lemony pan juices into a cup and whisk in tahini for a creamier sauce.
Serve hot, garnished with fresh mint.