Thursday, April 26, 2012

Skillet-Baked Panko Cutlets with Garlic Mashers

Recipe made/modified by You Want Me to Cook? – April 23, 2011
For a commentary-free and printer-friendly version of it, please click here.

Skillet-Baked Panko Cutlets, Italian “Sausage” Cutlets and Garlic Mashers recipes published in Vegan Diner by Julie Hasson.

So a while back, my husband and I decided we were going to try to eat more vegetables.

*Pffft… yeah right.

I began looking for more green and colored vegetables in side dishes, but never seemed to find things that went together.  Then I had a flash of brilliance – I should start looking for vegetarian entrees.  It worked and now my husband looks forward to our veggie nights.  I think it’s because I have to be creative and you rely on herbs and spices to bring out the flavor in your food… not fat from meat.

Now don’t think I’m going to stop eating meat.  I love my burgers WAAAAAY too much to do that, but we did decide to bump up the vegetarian meals to two nights a week.  Good for us and I was doing a lot of patting myself on the back for trying to get us eating healthier even if it is only one night a week.

Then I had my eyes opened.

I have a couple of relatives that are vegans.  Vegans are individuals that eat nothing animal based, including milk, butter and eggs.  Some don’t even eat honey.  Let that information sink in and give it some thought.  Those are the staples to MANY dishes and I couldn’t comprehend how to bake without eggs.  Listening to them talk about the types of meals they prepare intrigued me and then I stumbled upon a book called Vegan Diner by Julie Hasson.  She turned many comfort foods (mac & cheese, pancakes, grilled cheese) into vegan meals.

I had to have that book.

It’s been sitting on my shelf for a while now, but I’ve decided to really push this blog ahead full time, so I decided it was time.

A couple of things before we start…

First, just because a meal is vegan doesn’t mean it is (a) healthy or (b) diet friendly.  There are plenty of ways to make foods calorie and fat heavy that don’t include animal based ingredients.  Also, you’d be surprised at the sodium levels of many dishes.

Second, you’ll notice that one of the recipes in the top line is called Italian “Sausage” Cutlets.  I put those quotes around sausage, not the author.  I fully respect people who believe in the vegan way of life, but I’m slightly put off by people calling vegan faux-meats, well… meats.  Don’t get the impression that you’re going to chomp into the cutlet and scream, “OH MY WORD!  IT’S LIKE I’M EATING A SAUSAGE PATTY FROM THE BUTCHER!”

Nope, not gonna happen.

The cutlet you make for this dish is tasty substitute to meat and I didn’t eat it thinking, “Man I wish I had some sausage right now”.  It was quite the opposite.  I was thinking, “Yeah, I’m enjoying this dish and not wishing it was something else.”  However, it certainly doesn’t have the taste or consistency of a meat sausage patty.  My husband only read the title of the main meal “Skillet-Baked Panko Cutlets” and said he appreciated that I wasn’t trying to make him think he was eating meat.  He’s a grown up and has an open mind to try different things.

And that’s all I really ask.

Finally, a vegan dish is not something you can make on the fly if you’ve never made vegan dishes before and especially if you haven’t made mock meats.  You’re going to need some special ingredients, so do a little research and plan on making it a couple weeks out.  Give yourself plenty of time and most of all, keep an open mind.

Let’s get to the food, shall we?

© You Want Me to Cook?
Skillet-Baked Panko Cutlets with Garlic Mashers
Take a good look at this picture and try to forget about the fact that it is a faux meat under the delicately breaded and browned panko, delicious looking sauce and oozing mozzarella veggie shreds.  Doesn’t it look delicious?  And it is delicious!

The book does have a picture, but they don’t have any images available on-line to link to (I hate copying pictures and putting them on my blog without linking to the individual/book/blog/website for the credit), so you’ll have to take my word on this… it looks very similar.

for more details about what my ratings mean, go to Gretchen’s Rating System

MessSIGH – The prep is relatively minimal and the equipment is manageable, but you’ve got two VERY MESSY tasks to do with this recipe.  First is making the cutlets.  The flour mix soaks-up the liquid and makes sticky dough.  It was impossible to stir with a spoon, so to get it mixed well, I had to use my hands.  If you’ve ever kneaded dough, you know how messy this can be.  Then you’ve got the 3-steps of breading the cutlets moving between bowls.  Happily, you don’t have to deal with sticky egg, but you do have a thick soymilk dredge that can get “splashy” and messy.

Start-to-Finish Time: ALMOST TWO HOURS – Before you gasp and scream, “NEVER” please remember that I made the cutlets the same day as the rest of the dish.  That takes about an hour in itself.  If you’re planning on making this on a busy weeknight, you may want to make the cutlets a day ahead of time and keep them in the fridge.

Prep Work: SLIGHT BLOOD LOSS – Almost all of this is measure and mix, but you will have to chop some herbs.  Luckily it doesn’t have to be a precise chop.

Ease of Recipe: USES TEARS AS SEASONING – Now, don’t get too excited over this.  I simply bit off more than I could chew with my first vegan recipe.  I probably should have started with something a bit simpler.  I did have to search high-and-low for some of the ingredients, but now that I’ve found my new favorite store, I won’t have any issues buying specialty ingredients and if I’m really lazy, I can just shop on-line.  Luckily I had all the needed equipment on hand, so that was refreshing.  However, while I love Ms. Hasson’s book – glossary, ingredients, descriptions – some of the steps were a little confusing.  I had to go slow and steady.  If you’re asking me if I’d make it again with this rating – the answer is YES.

OverallYUMMY – Both of us really enjoyed this dish, but it makes a HUGE serving.  There’s no need for us to compete for leftovers because we’re going to be eating it all week at this rate.  I would make it again in a heartbeat though.

Recipe Information:
I am not a doctor or dietician.  I make my nutritional assessments with the aid of Spark Recipes.  I run the original recipe and my altered recipe through their calorie counter and then compute the differences I find.  My numbers are to be used as a guideline.  Anyone who is under dietary medical supervision should follow the advice of their medical professional if their opinion differs from mine.  PLEASE!

Servings: 6 to 8
No timing given

The servings are coming from three different recipes, but for the main dish, you are making nine cutlets.  For me, one was plenty.  My husband ate one and half of another.  The servings from the potato dish said four servings, but there are 3 pounds of potatoes in this dish.  You can absolutely stretch this out to 7 or eight servings with a hearty salad (or not… it was plenty of food for us).

The book listed servings, but didn’t give any timing information.  The truth is that one dish depends on another and it definitely seems like the author makes batches of the cutlets and then pulls them out of the freezer when she wants to use them in a dish.  Therefore, it really is hard to get a sense of how long the recipe is going to take because she doesn’t know if you’re going to make the cutlets at the same time, like I did or keep them in the freezer.  Anyway, here is how my timing worked out:
  • Italian “Sausage” Cutlets
    • Prep: 3 minutes
    • Hands-on: 16 minutes
    • Cook: 45 minutes
    • Cool: 16 minutes
    • Total Time: 1 hour 24 minutes
  • Garlic Mashers
    • Prep: 5 (done while cutlets cook)
    • Cook: 43 minutes (started while cutlets cooking)
    • Cool: 10 minutes
    • Hands-on Time: 7 minutes
    • Total Time: 1 hour 7 minutes
  • Skillet-Baked Panko Cutlets
    • Prep: 10 minutes (done while cutlets and potatoes cook)
    • Hands-on: 40 minutes (started while potatoes were cooking)
    • Cook: 6 minutes / batch in 2 batches
    • Broil: 2
    • Total Time: 52 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 51 minutes
Again, making the cutlets a day before will save you around an hour, so keep that in mind.  While making the potatoes, I had to wait 17 minutes for the water to boil, so that was added into the time as well.  If you made cutlets day before, start with Garlic Mashers and then made Skillet-Baked Panko Cutlets while potatoes are cooking, you would probably be eating in around an hour.

Nutritional Information
None Given

Some authors will give nutritional information and some won’t.  I give authors a little wiggle room in general because they don’t have a huge staff like say, a large magazine/multiple television show/publishing empire/kitchenware sales company that we know and I love to whine about not providing this information.

Giving this more thought, this is comfort food, so don’t plan on it being extremely healthy.

Of course I had to compute it myself.  I made a couple of decisions.  First, I decided to stretch my serving size to eight since I think that how many people would eat this.  Several of the ingredients weren’t in my calculator, so I added the detail from the ingredients I purchased into the system.  Then, I plugged the ingredients and servings as stated and got the following:
  • Serving: 1 cutlet with approximately 1/2 cup sauce and 1/2 cup potatoes
  • Calories 601.7
  • Total Fat 15.1 g
  • Saturated Fat 2.5 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 2.2 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 8.8 g
  • Cholesterol 0.0 mg
  • Sodium 1,289.9 mg
  • Potassium 1,144.1 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 77.2 g
  • Dietary Fiber 11.9 g
  • Sugars 6.7 g
  • Protein 33.4 g
So I’m sure you’ve noticed a couple of things.  Holy calories, carbohydrates and sodium Batman!  While the initial numbers seem a little frightening, let’s break it down:
  • For an entrée and side dish, 600 calories isn’t all that bad.  You could cut back on the sauce and replace some of the potatoes with a salad if you want to scale it back a little.
  • There are 15 grams of fat, but 11 grams of those are healthy fats, so don’t fret.
  • If this dish has anything going for it, it is ZERO cholesterol.
  • The sodium level is quite frightening and I don’t think there is much you can do about it.  Often sodium is used to give lower fat foods a little more taste.  Obviously, this dish is made out of a lot of flours and wheat, so sodium in the soy sauce, tomato sauce, tomatoes, panko and margarine give it the flavor.
  • You’d think the bulk of the carbs come from the potatoes, but the cutlets are a blend of flours and yeast flakes.  Good news is that they are chock full of fiber, but if you’re on a carb-restricted diet, cut back on the potatoes and eat a half of a cutlet.  Fill up on a light salad instead.
There’s more good news.  This recipe is chock full of healthy vitamins:
  • B12 – important to the functioning of the brain and nervous system and the formation of red blood cells
  • Vitamin B6 – Important for nerve function, but really important for the production of hemoglobin and antibodies and this recipe gives you over 100% of your RDA
  • Vitamin C – an antioxidant that is needed by the body to form collagen in bones, cartilage, muscle, and blood vessels, and which aids in the absorption of iron.
  • Folate – helps tissues grow and your cells to work.
  • Niacin – Helps the body release energy from protein, fat and carbohydrate during metabolism.
  • Riboflavin – Assists in breaking down carbohydrates and assists your body in using oxygen, and this recipe has over 100% of your RDA
  • Thiamin – Which is involved in numerous body functions, including nervous system and muscle functioning and this recipe has over 100% of your RDA.
Changes denoted by red text

© You Want Me to Cook?
Skillet-Baked Panko Cutlets with Garlic Mashers
- Italian "sausage" cutlets ingredients
Italian "Sausage" Cutlets:
2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 cup chickpea flour
2 tablespoons granulated onion
1 tablespoon fennel seed (optional)
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon, coarsely ground pepper, preferably freshly ground
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes (optional)

1 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups cool water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce

© You Want Me to Cook?
Skillet-Baked Panko Cutlets with Garlic Mashers
- sauce and breading ingredients
1 can (28-ounce) tomato sauce
1 can (28-ounce) diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley, plus more for garnish

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
Pinch sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup plain soymilk
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1-1/2 cups unseasoned panko breadcrumbs, plus more as needed
2-4 tablespoons olive oil, for cooking
1/2 to 1 cup shredded vegan mozzarella

© You Want Me to Cook?
Skillet-Baked Panko Cutlets with Garlic Mashers
- Garlic Mashers ingredients
Garlic Mashers:
3 pounds small red potatoes
About 1 cup plain unsweetened soymilk or as needed
2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated vegan margarine, melted, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Ingredient Notes:
Vital Wheat Gluten – This is natural protein from wheat and it adds texture and elasticity to your food.  It is what gives faux-meats their chewy texture.  You probably won’t find this in your local grocery store.  If you’re lucky enough to live near a Whole Foods, they carry it.  I got mine from a great health food store, Sunrise Health Foods, but you can also order it online.  Bob’s Red Mill is a highly recommended brand and you can buy Vital Wheat Gluten directly from them.

Nutritional Yeast Flakes – I’m sure you’ve figured out that this product is derived from yeast.  It is a staple of a vegan diet because they are high in B vitamins, protein (a must since you will not be eating any meat) and minerals.  It also has a cheese flavor and is used as a flavor enhancer.  Again, I got mine from the health food store, but the author of the book highly recommends RedStar® (which my grocery store does carry, but only yeast) and of course Bob’s Red Mill which you can buy on-line.

Chickpea Flour – Also known as Garbanzo Bean Flour (garbanzo bean and chickpea are used interchangeably).  It can be used to replace wheat flour in baked goods, but is probably used in this dish since it has a slightly “beany” flavor and will add taste to the cutlets.  My grocery store actually carries a large selection of Bob’s Red Mill and I was surprised they didn’t have this one in stock since it is used in a lot of Middle Eastern dishes.  Again, I picked it up from the health food store, but you can also get it from Whole Foods or on-line from Bob’s Red Mill directly.

Granulated Onion – I had problems finding granulated onion, but you can make your own by putting the same amount of minced onion in a mini-chop or using a mortar and pestle. I used minced onion, but the author says you can also use the same amount of onion powder.
Fennel Seed – I don’t care much for the strong taste of fennel.  It is an optional ingredient, so I left it out, but if you’re looking for your cutlets to have an Italian flavor, you may want to add it.

Granulated Garlic – I had the same problem finding granulated garlic as I did granulated onion.  You can make your own as you can the granulated onion.  I simply used minced garlic, but the author of the book says you can also use the same amount of garlic powder.

Dried Chili Flakes – Again, I didn’t want the additional spice the my cutlet (I have a thing about spicy cutlets), but it is optional, so I needn’t worry.

Ground Smoked Paprika – I always have regular paprika (Hungarian) on hand and didn’t feel like spending the extra money on another bottle (smoked is Spanish Paprika).  If you have it on hand, you can go ahead and use it.

Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce – reduced sodium soy sauce doesn’t lack any of the taste of regular soy sauce, and cutting the sodium anywhere you can in this dish is a good thing.

Tomato Sauce – I used a 100% natural brand.  I’m not sure what that is supposed to mean, but it is definitely lower in sodium, so I went with it.

Diced Tomatoes – Again, I went with organic canned tomatoes because they were significantly lower in sodium.  Again, cutting it anyway you can from this recipe is a good thing.

Garlic – I used my pre-minced, but mincing your own fresh is the most favorable.

Parsley – You need a significant amount for this dish, so you can buy a bunch and you won’t waste it.

Whole Wheat Flour – you should be able to find this in your grocery store, but the author also gives all-purpose as an option.

Soymilk – we have soymilk in the house for regular drinking, cereal and oatmeal, but we usually keep the VANILLA kind on hand.  Make sure you are using regular or classic soymilk in your recipe.  Vanilla is too sweet for this dish.

Unseasoned Panko Breadcrumbs – Panko is one of those ingredients that I never seem to find consistently in the store.  My grocery store has a large Japanese cooking section (including seaweed sheets for sushi) yet they didn’t have any panko.  I went to the equally large breadcrumb section and only found one kind.  I have seen whole wheat panko before, but I was stuck with regular for this recipe.

Shredded vegan mozzarella – This stuff confuses me.  The kind I buy is made out of vegetable shreds and really tastes like mozzarella when it is in a dish or on a salad.  By itself it is gross!  Anyway, you should look for this in the produce section, not your dairy section.

Non-hydrogenated Vegan Margarine – This was the most difficult thing to find.  Luckily, I found a health food store that has a large dairy section in it, but I had to call around quite a bit.  Don’t give up looking for it though.

Equipment Needed:
Large Saucepan
Small Saucepan
Large Stockpot
Dutch Oven or Large Skillet with Lid
Food Processor /Immersion Blender
Steamer Insert/Basket
Aluminum Foil
(3) Shallow Bowls
Large Bowl
Large Plate
(2) Large Spoons
(2) Medium Spoons - Mixing
Potato Masher
Cutting Board
Large Knife

Equipment Notes:
Dutch Oven – The original recipe calls for a large oven-proof skillet, but I don’t have one that will fit all of my cutlets and sauce.  I went with my Dutch oven and it worked great.

Food Processor / Blender / Immersion Blender – Obviously, the easiest way to blend a soup is by using an immersion or stick blender.  I do not have one… I wonder why that is?  Hmmm… I need to get on that.  Anyway, I used my food processor and did it in batches.  Worked great.

Steamer Insert / Basket – I have a very large stock pot that has a steamer basket, but it is beyond huge.  I was digging around my neighborhood big box store and found an insert that fits right inside of my pot.  Works like a charm!

(1)   Make Italian Sausage Cutlets: 
(a)  Fill your Dutch oven with enough water to reach the bottom of the steamer insert and place it over high heat. Once the water starts to boil, you can turn it off so that it doesn't evaporate. You are going to need as much water as possible since you are going to be steaming the cutlets for 45 minutes and don't want to run out of water. 
You can tell if it runs out of water because steam will stop escaping from under the lid.  Be careful because cooking an empty pot can destroy it. 
(b)  In a large bowl, combine the vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast flakes, chickpea flour, granulated onion, fennel (if using), granulated garlic, black pepper, chili flakes (if using), smoked paprika, dried oregano and salt, mixing well. 
(c)  In a shallow bowl, use a fork to whisk together the water, olive oil and soy sauce and gently stir into the dry ingredients. Stir just until ingredients are mixed. If the dough mixture is too dry, you can add another tablespoon of water or as needed.
 I actually had the opposite problem with my mixture – it was too wet.  It seemed like the flour mixture soaked up only so much and then it just pooled around it when it was done. 
(d)  Scoop 1/3 cup dough mixture at a time and shape into thin patties, about 4 to 4-1/2 inches across. Place the patties on a piece of alumium foil (there's no need to wrap them up). 
(e)  Return/Keep the water simmering, place the steamer insert into the Dutch oven and place the cutlets in the steamer. It's okay to stack them so that they are overlapping a little, but try to keep them as flat as possible since they will remain in whatever shape that they steam in. 
I was almost able to keep all of them in a single layer, but when I got to the last two I just ran out of room.  I plopped them on top of the others and hoped for the best.  They turned out fine, but try to fit as many as you can in a single layer. 
(f)  Cover the steamer and steam the sausages for 45 minutes or until they are firm to the touch.
 I ran out of water at about the 40-minute mark.  What I did was turn off the heat and kept the lid on for the remainder of the time.  My cutlets were cooked through, but if it is any more than a couple of minutes, you may have to try to add some more to the pot. 
(g)  Remove the steamer from the heat and remove the lid of the steamer so that the cutlets can cool for 10 minutes.
(2)  While the Cutlets are steaming, start the mashed potatoes: 
(a)  Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. 
(b)  Add potatoes and cook until tender about 20 to 25 minutes.
(c)  Drain and let sit for 10 minutes or until still warm but cook enough to handle. 
(d)  Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl.
 I put mine back into the pot.  No need to dirty another pot!
(3)  Start the sauce:
(a)  In a large saucepan, combine the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, oregano and garlic. With a stick/immersion blender, blend all the ingredients together. You can also use a food processor, as I did; blending in batches and pouring it back into the saucepan.
It took me three batches and what I did was add a little bit of each ingredient into each batch.  I gave the sauce a good stir once it was in the pot.
(b)  Stir in 1/3 cup minced parsley.
(c)  Bring to a simmer and cook over medium heat while you finish the cutlets.
(4)  Finish the cutlets:
(a)  Preheat the broiler.
(b)  In a shallow bowl, mix together the flour, nutritional yeast flakes, garlic, salt and pepper.
(c)  In another shallow bowl, whisk together the soymilk and cornstarch until smooth.
(d)  In yet another shallow bowl, place the panko breadcrumbs.
(e)  Working with one cutlet at a time, lightly coat each side of cutlet with seasoned flour.
(f)  Next dip the cutlet into the soymilk mixture, coating on both sides.
(g)  Finally, coat with the panko breadcrumbs, making sure to coat both sides well.
(h)  Repeat with remaining cutlets.
(i)  Place a Dutch oven/large deep skillet over medium-high heat.
(j)  Add a tablespoon or two of oil to the skillet, turning to coat.
(k)  Add half of the cutlets and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, until lightly browned and crisp.
(l)  Flip over and cook another 3-4 minutes. You can reduce the heat if the cutlets start to burn.
I ended up turning down the heat after the first side of the first batch.
(m)  Remove the breaded cutlets to a plate and repeat using the other half of the cutlets adding more oil as necessary.
I used two tablespoons per batch.
(n)  Over the last batch, pour half of the hot tomato sauce on top of the cutlets.
(o)  Top with the remaining cutlets, followed by the remaining sauce.
(p)  Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top of the tomato sauce.
(q)  Place the skillet under the broiler until the cheese is golden and melted, for several minutes. Watch carefully so it doesn't burn.
(r)  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with additional parsley.
(5)  Finish the potatoes:
(a)  Heat the soymilk until steaming hot in a small saucepan on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Don’t lose track!  You want it steaming, not boiling!
(b)  Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes well. It's okay if there are still some little chunks in them.
(c)  Add half of the hot milk, the melted margarine, nutritional yeast flakes, salt and white pepper, mixing well. (You can use an electric hand mixer with beater blades, if you want.) Add more hot milk as necessary, until the potatoes are soft and fluffy.
(d)  Add freshly ground pepper to taste. Adjust seasonings and serve right away while hot.

So I was really happy with my first attempt at vegan cooking.  As I said before, I bit off a lot to chew with making my mock meat in the first recipe I selected.  Of course, now that I’ve done it once, I know what to expect and will plan ahead.

The dish really was comforting.  The sauce draped lovely over the breading.  The potatoes were fluffy and deliciously garlic-y.  It was a great meal and my husband ate it the next day for lunch.  That is a big thumbs up from him!

Making changes to ingredients at this stage of the game in my vegan cooking ability would be really pushing it.  But I would make the cutlets at least the day before, cut the recipe in half and freeze the leftover cutlets.

I’m definitely going to keep this up and selecting a dish a week from the book.  Of course, I can’t start patting myself on the back yet.  One of my relatives said, “Great, once you start making vegan meals, could you also make them Gluten-Free?”

And the learning continues.

As always… Happy Cooking!!!

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