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Devil Inside Lasagna

seitan mushroom lasagna INXS
“Makes you wonder how the other half die”

Inspired by INXS “Devil Inside” from Kick
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I listened to a lot of INXS back in the day. Not so much anymore. Sure, they might show up in an ’80s Spotify playlist, but I’m not seeking them out as a listening choice. So when I decided I wanted to use one of my fave INXS tracks as a recipe name, I did a little refresher course in listening.

The end result is confirmation that Kick is without a doubt their peak album. Beyond the moody rocker of the inspiration for this recipe, you’ve got “New Sensation”, “Mediate”, “Need You Tonight”, and the impeccable “Never Tear Us Apart.” This was a band at the top of their game and honestly never again met the level of this album. As a blatant brag, I was working in the music biz around the release of Kick and had the pleasure of seeing a warm-up club concert with about 1000 people for the Kick tour. It was a raucous, sweaty, and somewhat drunken night with Michael Hutchence as a consummate rock star. His passing a decade later may not have had the ripples of a Bowie or Cobain, but nonetheless robbed rock of a brilliant voice and performer.

This is a fairly traditional lasagna recipe with a vegetarian twist. I wanted to skip the usual sausage or ground beef but wanted to keep a certain mouthfeel & protein factor. The first choice was using some Baby Bella (aka micro-portobello) mushrooms,  but they were not going to add protein. That was going to come in the form of my new obsession, seitan, and that led to the inspiration song and dish name. SEITAN inside lasagna –> SATAN inside lasagna –> DEVIL INSIDE LASAGNA. Yeah, there’s a quick glimpse into my process.

If you are unfamiliar with seitan, it’s seasoned wheat gluten that is either boiled, steamed, baked, or some combo of all three. It’s typically used in vegan cooking as a protein substitute with many recipes attempting to duplicate meat products. I choose to embrace seitan for what it is: a somewhat meaty source of protein with only your imagination as a limit to flavor.

At its base, seitan is vital wheat gluten and water. That, however, will pretty much be inedible. It’s what you choose to add in the spice and liquid flavor categories that will create something delicious. I’ve spent about a year tweaking the chorizo spiced seitan used here. I’ve also been working on a seitan hot dog that is pretty much set. The density of your seitan will be determined by how long you knead the dough. I only knead for a couple of minutes as I am looking for a texture like a sausage. Longer kneading will yield seitan you can pull like chicken or slice like deli meat. It’s an incredibly forgiving ingredient to make once you’ve gotten the basics.

I went with a dice for the seitan as I did not want it to disappear into the sauce texture. You could also use a box grater to shred the seitan for a more traditional lasagna style. You could also probably make this completely vegan if you enjoy vegan cheese. Unfortunately, I do not. I have yet to find a vegan cheese that matches the flavor and mouthfeel of ethically sourced small-batch cheese so this ended up vegetarian.

One final note, you might be tempted to use those “no-boil” lasagna noodles taking over grocery shelves. Please don’t! You will end up with a gummy tray of lasagna. It really does not take that much effort to boil some water, make the noodles, and hit them with a bit of olive oil to keep them separate. If you happen to have an Italian grocer or deli in your area, get some fresh lasagna noodles. They can go straight into the assembly. Just don’t buy the packaged “fresh” noodles in your grocer’s fridge because they are likely not that fresh.

This is a perfect tray for a party or keeps beautifully in the fridge as leftovers. I usually keep the whole lasagna together in the tray and cover with foil. Then I cut pieces as needed to reheat. Of course, cooling and cutting into pre-packed portions mean easy to grab & go for work lunches or a quick dinner. 

DEVIL INSIDE LASAGNA
Chorizo spiced seitan, mushrooms, mozzarella, ricotta, asiago, tomato sauce, and lasagna noodles
Makes about 8 servings

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound chorizo spiced seitan, diced (see recipe below)
1 pound Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

For the assembly:
Kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds fresh mozzarella, grated or shredded into small pieces
16 ounces (2 cups) whole milk ricotta
1 cup coarsely grated Asiago, plus more for sprinkling on top
Freshly ground pepper
1 pound dried lasagna noodles (not the no-boil variety)
Olive oil

Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is totally softened and translucent (without letting it brown), 8 to 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally until they soften and start to release their liquid, about 6 minutes. Add the diced seitan and cook until lightly crisped. Add tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring until the tomato paste has turned a deeper brick red color, tinting the oil and onions a fiery orange color, about 2 minutes.

Using your hands, crush the whole tomatoes into smaller, bite-size pieces and add them and the crushed tomatoes, stirring to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato sauce has thickened and flavors have come together about 20 to 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 375 degrees and set a large pot of salted water to boil.

Set aside 1 cup mozzarella. In a medium bowl, combine remaining mozzarella, ricotta, and 1 cup Asiago; season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Cook lasagna noodles in the large pot of salted boiling water until just softened (before they are even al dente), about 4 minutes. Drain and separate any noodles that are trying to stick together, slicking them with a bit of olive oil to prevent them from sticking further.

Spoon a bit of sauce on the bottom of a 3-quart baking dish and top with a layer of noodles, avoiding any heavy overlap.

Top with about 1 1/4 cups of sauce, and dollop 1/4 of the cheese mixture over. Top with another layer of noodles and repeat three more times, ending with the last of the noodles (depending on the size of the noodle/shape of the baking dish, you may have a few extra noodles) and the last of the sauce. Top with reserved 1 cup mozzarella and more Asiago, if you like.

Cover loosely with aluminum foil and place baking dish on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet (to prevent any overflow from burning on the bottom of your oven).

Bake until pasta is completely tender and cooked through and sauce is bubbling up around the edges, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove foil and increase the temperature to 450 degrees. Continue to bake until lasagna is golden brown on top with frilly, crispy edges and corners, another 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before eating. 

CHORIZO SEITAN
Makes about a pound

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1/2  teaspoon red pepper flake
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoon ketchup
2 chipotle in adobo, minced
1/2 teaspoon chipotle adobo
1/2 cup of seltzer
1 cup vital wheat gluten

Place a pot of water with a steamer basket and lid on medium-high heat.

Combine everything except the vital wheat gluten in the bowl of a food processor. Blend on low until smooth paste forms. Add the wheat gluten to the bowl and process until it comes together as a dough ball and all ingredients are uniformly mixed into the dough. Turn the ball out on a work surface and knead for three minutes. Form the dough into a loaf and wrap tightly in aluminum foil.

Place the wrapped loaf in the steamer basket and steam for 50 minutes with the lid on at medium to medium-low temperature. Check the water level at around 25 minutes. After 50 minutes of steaming, the loaf should be fairly firm but not hard. If it feels soft, continue cooking and checking every 5 minutes.

When the loaf is finished cooking, let cool thoroughly, preferably overnight, in the fridge.

Posted in bushwick, casserole, cheese, comfort food, cooking, food, foodmusic, music, musicfood, pasta, recipe, seitan, vegetarian

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