How to Make Your Very Own Delicious Thanksgiving Unturkey


I don’t give a shit what anyone says, Thanksgiving is about mashed potatoes. And maybe pumpkin pie, if you’re stretching it. But turkey? It takes time, it’s easy to screw up, it can be stringy and bone dry, and even the best bird just tastes like…turkey. Which is not always a good thing. Or, you know, you just don’t eat meat. At any rate, Turkey can be a pain. If you’re still trying to figure out a game plan for tomorrow, consider eschewing the turkey (sacrilege!) in favor of an enormous “bird” that is juicy, savory, and filled with a stuffing so nice you’ll have to eat it twice. Or three times, if you’re fat and awesome like me.

I know my shit sounds like an infomercial, I just really love this tasty-ass mega-beast, invented by vegan culinary genius Miyoko Schinner, and the lady knows what’s she doing. I came up with my perfect recipe by combining parts of the original recipe and Miyoko’s updated one. Let’s get started!

First thing you need to do is make at least two batches of the Light Yeast Flavoring Powder. I know, appetizing name. Don’t worry, it’s candida free and delicious, my friends! If you want to skip this part, don’t. But if you really want to skip this part, you can sub in some store-bought vegan chicken broth powder or rich veggie stock. Next!

Now, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • One yard cheesecloth
  • 8 cups vital wheat gluten flour (Bob’s Red Mill makes it, or bulk in hippie stores)
  • 6 cups plus 1 gallon water
  • 2 cups Light Nutritional Yeast Flavoring
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup Earth Balance
  • 1/3 cup white wine — use the stuff you’d actually drink, you’re worth it! JK, use the cheap shit.
  • 2 round circles dried Chinese bean curd sheet (yuba), or enough smaller squares to cover Unturkey in two or three layers (3 or 4 packets). Alternately, if you can get the fresh or frozen stuff, or make it yourself (fancy!), use that instead.

OK, now that you’ve gathered the troops, it’s easy to make your unbird. Really, trust me, because I believe in you.

Start by mixing your vital wheat gluten with 6 cups water, soy sauce, and 1 cup Light Nutritional Yeast Flavoring. This will create a big spongy mass that looks like this.

Then, spread out the cheesecloth and place the gluten roll in the middle. Wrap the sides of the cloth around the gluten roll first, then tie the ends together. It should be wrapped fairly loosely so that the gluten can expand a little while cooking but not so loose that it expands too much and becomes too soft and spongy in texture. It’s easier than it sounds, I’m pretty terrible at everything and I can do it!

Place the roll in a large pot. Pour over it the gallon of water and the remaining 1 cup yeast flavoring. Cover, bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

While that’s simmering, you want to do two things:

1. Make your stuffing with whatever recipe you like, I don’t really care, OK? Miyoko has one that’s good, but maybe you want to make your Nona’s, or whatever.

2. If your yuba is dried, reconstitute it by soaking for five minutes in water in a flat, shallow dish, or between layers of wet towels. It will turn white and be pliable but will still be fragile. It is really fun because it turns from one food into another food like magic. If you’re using frozen yuba, defrost it. If you’re using fresh yuba, you’re done, good job.

NEXT! Remove the blob from the hot broth (save that and use it in your gravy or to make soup! It’s a depression, people!) Then, once it’s cooled enough to not give you third-degree burns, slice the unbird in half lengthwise, put the bottom half on a greased cookie sheet and mound the stuffing on top of it. Next, take the top half of the unbird and halve it widthwise. Take those two sides and make a lean-to on top of the stuffing. Miyoko illustrates the process in her post so check it out.

Then, cover the unturkey with two to three layers of yuba. Melt the margarine and brush the entire thing with some of it. Pour the wine into the remaining margarine: this will be used to baste the unturkey while baking. If desired, two tablespoons of the yeast flavoring can be added to the margarine-wine mixture to give it an even more authentic flavor. Actually, for sure do that, yum yum yum!

Then, cover with foil and pop into a preheated oven at 350 degrees F. Bake for 1 hour, remove foil, and then put back in for 15 more minutes. If you can remember, baste regularly with wine/yeast/margarine mixture and juices in the pan. Which is a very gross phrase and I apologize.

BAM! Your Unturkey is ready for public consumption, and consumed it will be. That yuba makes a crispy skin that’s fatty and crackly just like the real deal (creepy!) and you’ll find yourself ripping it off in chunks like a flesh-hungry sociopath. I know some people will bitch about how “if you don’t want to eat meat, why do you eat fake meat?!” and I call bullshit because I don’t not eat meat because I don’t love the taste of rotting flesh, I don’t eat meat because I don’t want to eat animals because they’re my friends (sometimes they’re my best friends, THANKS HUMANS), especially when shit at Butterball is hella shady and free-range has its own problemos.

And yes, I eat vegetables and grains and all that bullshit deliciousness too, but sometimes there’s nothing like some fake flesh to sate the meat mouth in me. And damn, it is good. Plus, my dad is a self-proclaimed hater of “vaygun” food, and that fool ate half this thing in one sitting. So have at it, everyone! And if you make it, invite me over? And if you invite me over, make two because girlfriend can eat.

Oh, finally, here’s a video of Miyoko making the famed bird, with the pre-bake method. I like the pre-bake method but I think it produces a less juicy bird. But it’s still hella good so if you’re more comfortable with that, go for it. I cannot make you walk when what you really want to do is fly.

All photos yours truly, except for the full dinner, cheesecloth, and yeast mix from verymiao.

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