Vegetarian Thanksgiving spectacular!

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Happy (almost) Thanksgiving! Instead of relegating yourself to a plate full of side dishes this year, why not make a delicious meat-free (and dairy-free!) main dish? I first tried the Post-Punk Kitchen's chickpea cutlets last Thanksgiving, when I made dinner for just me and Bryan. This year, I'll be making them again, alongside a (free-range, vegetarian-fed, organic) turkey breast for my sister, who's visiting from PA. (And I can't wait to see her! Yaaaay!) 

Now I know that next to a moist, fragrant, crispy-skinned turkey, chickpeas seem... well, boring. But this recipe is surprisingly hearty and flavorful. The thyme and sage bring in traditional Thanksgiving flavors, and the wheat gluten makes the "cutlets" chewy on the inside. I had never cooked with vital wheat gluten before, so seeing strings of gluten spontaneously appear in the dough made me feel like some sort of scientist. It was fun! I've made this recipe several times since last Thanksgiving, and I've found that if the dough gets mixed for too long, the cutlets become too chewy -- like cheese-long-ago-stuck-to-the-pizza-box chewy. So don't mix them too long! They freeze really well, so I'd recommend making enough to put away for later!

You will need:

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 16-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1 cup plain breadcrumbs (not fresh)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • canola or olive oil for frying

Steps:

  1. Add the garlic cloves to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until chopped. Then add the chickpeas in with the garlic and pulse again until the chickpeas are mashed (but not so long that they get puréed). Transfer the garlic and chickpeas to a bowl.
  2. Add all the remaining ingredients (minus the extra oil for frying) to the chickpea mixture and use your hands to knead the dough just until strings of gluten form, which will be a minute or two. (The original recipe has a helpful photo.)
  3. Preheat a large rimmed skillet over medium-low. Add just enough oil to make a thin layer on the bottom.
  4. Divide the cutlet "dough" into two equal parts. Then divide each half into four pieces, making eight pieces total. Shape each piece by hand, stretching and flattening until you have eight rectangular-ish shapes about 4" by 6" in size. (A flat surface like a cutting board will help.)
  5. Place the cutlets in the pan and cook them 6-7 minutes per side. They will be browned and crispy on both sides when they're done. You might need to add a little more oil to the pan when you flip them. Allow them to rest for a few minutes before serving.

If you have to make these in two batches, you can keep the first batch warm under aluminum foil while the second round cooks. I recommend either Hain Brown Gravy Mix or Imagine Wild Mushroom Gravy with these. I think the Hain gravy tastes better, but it does require cooking and stirring it on the stovetop (trust me: the microwave method is gross); the Imagine gravy is ready-to-serve out of the box. 

Last year, I served this with Smitten Kitchen's garlic butter roasted mushroomsEpicurious' roasted green beans and cashews, and Rachael Ray's red-skinned mashed potatoes. I may just do the exact same thing this year!