Makes 8 runzas
Total Time: 2 hours || Active Time: 1 hour
People are surprised that I moved to Omaha Nebraska, but think of it as a pilgrimage to the birthplace of Malcolm X and Elliott Smith.
But more than Malcolm X and Elliott Smith, this town prides itself on two things: football and runzas. I’m more of a baseball girl myself, so if I’m going to take root in this state, it’s off to the kitchen for me.
Every culture has its meat-filled-dough-thing, be it empanadas, calzone, pork buns or pierogi. And of course every meat-filled-dough-thing has its own unique characteristics and nuance. And from region to region, or even family to family, there is always a way that it has to be. According to my boyfriend, a native Nebraskan, a runza has to be a doughy white bun, almost hoagie in shape. And it has to be stuffed with meat, onion and cabbage, and not much else.
Since this project was fairly impromptu, I didn’t have any cabbage laying around. I did have sauerkraut, though (what kind of savage doesn’t?) And although I was really determined to make the filling with lentils, the boyfriend poo-pooed that and insisted it had to be seitan. Well okay, his state, his filling. I used this seitan recipe, sans garlic. The seasoning was kept as simple as can be, salt and pepper pretty much did it! I also added just a touch of tomato paste for a slightly beefier taste and texture. And I was really liberal with the olive oil.
I veganized this recipe for the dough since it had leagues of reviews vouching for its authenticity. Instead of eggs, I used unsweetened soy yogurt (Whole Soy had conveniently sent me some to sample, so that worked out nicely!) and everything else was your standard sub. I changed the method up a bit, too, but you can read their method and see which works best for you. Basically, I didn’t heat everything up on the stovetop, I just melted the shortening in the microwave and used my standing mixer fitted with a flat beater for everything up to the kneading process. It worked out really well; relatively fast and not too messy, either.
The end result for these vegan runzas is a savory, toothsome filling, with a little bite and tang from the sauerkraut and lots of meaty flavor, all stuffed into a billowy, doughy bun that you will want to sink your teeth into again and again and again. And again. And just in time for the Super Bowl, too!
PS If you live in or visit Omaha, make sure to check out VeganOmaha.com.
For the dough:
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk, at room temperature (or your favorite non-dairy milk)
1/2 cup water, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened plain soy yogurt, at room temperature
For the filling:
Olive oil (at least 1/4 cup, divided)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 lb seitan, very finely chopped
3 cups sauerkraut
3/4 teaspoons salt
Lots of fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Make the dough:
Place 1 3/4 cups flour in a standing mixer bowl, along with the sugar, yeast and salt.
Place the shortening in a cereal bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove and stir. If not totally melted, place back in the microwave for 30 more seconds. Stir until completely melted.
Pour the almond milk, water and yogurt into the mixer bowl. Add the shortening. Beat on low until incorporated, then beat on high until smooth, about 3 minutes.
Add remaining 2 3/4 cups flour in 3 or 4 batches, beating until smooth after each addition. When a stiff dough has formed, turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until very smooth, about 10 minutes.
Place in a bowl greased with olive oil, cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
In the meantime, make the filling:
Preheat a large pan (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. Saute onions in a few tablespoons olive oil with a pinch of salt, until nicely browned, about 7 minutes. Add the seitan and a bit more oil and saute until seitan is browned, about 7 more minutes. In the meantime, drain the sauerkraut, pressing it into a fine mesh strainer, until most of the moisture is drained.
Add sauerkraut, salt, pepper and tomato paste. Cook for about 5 more minutes, adding more oil if necessary to prevent sticking. Taste for salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 350 F and have a greased baking sheet at the ready.
Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide into 8 equal pieces. One at a time, stretch the dough into an 8 x 6 rectangle. Place a scant 1/2 cup of filling in the dough (as if you’re rolling a cigarette, but smoking is bad) leaving 1 1/2 inches of space on all sides. Fold the ends over first, and then fold the top and bottom, sort of like a burrito. But pinch the edges and smooth them out so that it’s more bun than burrito.
Place on baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly golden and firm. Serve warm and cheer on your team!