Vegan "Chicken" and Dumplings

Clarity first-- I'm not a vegan.  I'm a vegetarian.  I try to eat very little dairy, but I have a cheese problem.

I'm always on the lookout for good vegan recipes because I want to eat vegan for most of our meals.  And once you've cut out the meat and dumped most of the dairy, it's not that hard to make the vegan substitutes.

Plus, I just find vegan cooking fascinating in a way I don't find other ways of cooking.  It feels like solving a puzzle when the substitutions work. 

I was having trouble with vegetarian/vegan  'chicken' and dumplings.  This is a problem because I start to crave creamy dumpling-y goodness as soon as the weather turns cold.  I've been experimenting with different recipes I found on the internet, and this last time, it turned out really well.

I think I've cracked it. 

So I'm going to give you the recipe.  Please bear in mind-- I'm basically an old timey grandma Southern cook.  I don't really measure stuff.  I just keep adding stuff and tasting until it seems right to me.

Also, if I forget what I did, I'll have this blog post to refer to later. 

I used seitan for the chicken substitute.  I think it might work with tempeh if you're avoiding gluten, but I'm not sure about the texture.  I get my seitan from my farm share with Greensgrow Farms  but there's a recipe for it on Post Punk Kitchen.  Every time I've made an Isa Chandra recipe, it works beautifully.

Ok, so shred the seitan and let it sit in a marinade of veggie broth, garlic, and siracha.   Always use salt and pepper.  Leave it for a couple of hours.

Good chicken and dumplings takes time.  Almost all Southern food takes time, but it makes huge pots of food that are delicious and usually cheap as hell to make. 

More veggie broth in a big pot.  Add the seitan and the marinade. Add chopped mushrooms.  If you have the dried shitaake , soak those suckers and use them, cause the flavor is boss.  (I don't use the soaking liquid in anything.  I toss it cause it can be a bit overwhelming in flavor.)

Cut up an onion, add.  Add a ton of garlic.  If you think, man.  Maybe that's too much garlic-- then it's probably enough.  Cut up some carrots if you have them.  Add a couple of bay leaves and some chili powder if you like it spicy.

Never skip the onion and the garlic.

So just turn that to low and let it bubble up for an hour of two.  Taste taste taste!  If it's bland, add more spices.  Chuck in some oregano if you want.  Parsley and basil are good too.  Sprinkle it in, don't go crazy.  Stir stir stir.

Add miso!  It seems like miso is the key to getting good flavor in these dishes that I would normally make by slow cooking animal bones for a long time.

I also added Korean bean paste because I have it.  And at a certain point, I tend to just start chucking things in the pot.  I think, yeah, this will probably be fine, while Josh is sometimes skeptical.   Which is justified, because it doesn't always work.

The fling things in a pot and boogie away method is NOT recommended if you're poor.  I didn't do this when I was in a position that losing an entire attempted dinner would have been a disaster and meant I might not have gotten to eat.  But if you can afford to ruin a couple of dinners, then you can learn more about cooking.

If you can't afford that-- stick with what you know will work. 

It's not required, but I suggest turning up the music and dancing and singing while you cook. 

My mom used to make dumplings and then roll them out with a rolling pin and cut them into squares.  People.  I don't have the time or patience for that. 

Here is how you make lazy-ass dumplings--  Flour in a bowl.  I'm guessing about 2 cups, but honestly, I just dump in enough to make a small mound.  Don't stress it too hard.  This isn't baking and you can't really fuck up drop dumplings.   Add either water or the non-dairy milk of your choice.  I use almond.  (Make sure it's not the vanilla flavored kind you use on your cereal. Don't have sad derp moments like me.)

Add the liquid slowly and mix with a fork.  You can add some nutritional yeast at this point, which I like to do for some added richness.  Salt and pepper.  Maybe some siracha or chili powder sprinkles depending on your tolerance for heat.  

The dumpling mix should stick together by itself.  Keep adding liquid until it gets pasty. If it's too liquidy, add more flour.  Then you drop small forkfuls of the dumpling mix into the pot. 

The problem with 'chicken' and dumplings for me is that the stupid bottom of the pot always burns and it used to piss me off so bad.   My solution is to put the pot inside another, slightly bigger pan.  Also, turn the heat way down at this point. You're cooking the dumplings slowly and mixing all the flavors slowly.  

The more time you have to do this, the better.  It generally take me the better part of a day to make this.  But I'm not in the kitchen the whole time.  After the original chopping bits, I'm checking on it and adding stuff.  I give it 30 minute increments usually to check.

 Ok, now you're going to start sprinkling in flour.  Sprinkle, sprinkle, stir.  Break up any lumps you see.  This will make the brothy soupy thing thicken up.   Just a couple of largish spoonfuls.  

Add nutritional yeast!!  The consistency should be like a very thick stew, not like soup!    

Stir stir stir.  Keep tasting! 

The last step is where you add a can of coconut cream.  Make sure it's not the kind meant for pina coladas with a whole bunch of sugar in it.  I know you can make your own cream out of cashews, and that would work too.  But I haven't tried to do it.  I suspect our blender might not be good enough for that.  Also, I have the coconut cream on hand, so I'm just going to use that where I would have used a can of condensed milk before.  You could use just a non-dairy milk too, but the thicker cream is going to be better.  

Stir and let it cook for another half hour.  Serve over rice. 

You can make enough of this to last for days and days, especially if you use the rice to stretch it out. 

I think it was using the nutritional yeast and the miso this time that really gave it the sensation I was looking for, like my mom used to make, except vegan. 

If you have any questions after this rambly mess, I'd be happy to answer them in the comments.