Chili Today, Hot Tamale {vegetarian chili}

If you recognize that punchline, then you’re probably either my father or someone in my immediate family.  Or someone awesome.  Welcome.

The chili was good.  In fact, it was some of the best chili I’ve made in a long time, and the reason is that I’ve recently realized I can’t stand chipotle peppers and yet I have felt compelled to put them in everything because of Bobby Flay.  NO MORE.  I am strong and I can resist your FLAYvors, Bobby.

Here’s the cast of characters, some of whom made it into the chili (congratulations) others didn’t:

one red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

one large onion, chopped

some jalapenos, chopped (seeded if you’re a weenie, or not at all if you’re a super-weenie)

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

one embarrassing spice packet – or a combination of the following spices to your liking: chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, coriander and some mexican oregano if you’ve got it

1/2 can of beer – I used a lager but I have a feeling that something a little darker would have been great too.  Just don’t use an IPA or wheat beer unless you really want to give it a go.  I have a feeling that would taste weird in the chili and I wouldn’t want to waste any hoppy goodness in a stew when I could easily drink it instead.

2-3 large cans of tomatoes in some form – I used one can diced, one can whole and one can diced in sauce because I had to tamp down the heat a bit from my overzealous use of aforementioned jalapenos.

I also had the quinoa and couscous standing by should we need a thickener but we didn’t.  The beans got nice and soft and broke down to thicken things up on their own.  Speaking of beans…

I had dried red kidney beans, black beans and black-eyed peas that I soaked overnight and rinsed.  I’m not sure how much I had of each, but it was a lot.  Probably 2 cups of kidney, and a cup each of the others.  I couldn’t fit them all into my dutch oven when cooking time came, so I probably ended up using about 7 cups of reconstituted beans when the whole thing was done.  Canned beans are fine too.  Use those if you want – just drain them before you put them in the pot.

Now what?

I heated a tablespoon or so of olive oil in our large dutch oven (thanks Aunt Perky and Uncle Russell!) and sautéed the peppers and onion for about 5 minutes over medium heat.  Then I added the garlic and the contents of the spice packet and a bit of extra cumin and coriander (say, a teaspoon of each?) and cooked that with the veg for a minute or two to get things going.  Then I poured 1/2 a can of beer into the pot to deglaze it a bit and brought it to a boil and let it cook down for about 2-3 minutes until it had thickened up.  Add the beans, add the tomatoes and bring to a boil, stirring to make sure things don’t stick.  Once it’s there, turn down the heat to low to simmer covered for 2 hours or so.

Once the beans start to soften, remove the lid and continue to simmer uncovered so things start to get interesting.  Taste for salt.  I needed at least a tablespoon – and I didn’t add salt early on because I wasn’t sure how salty that packet was.  Just so you know.

If your power goes out during cooking, don’t worry, just leave the pot covered until Georgia Power remedies the situation and bring it back to a simmer once your electricity has been restored.  Also, if your cable goes out, read a book.

Once you like the consistency of the chili, it’s time to do the 5-bean test (something I learned from Anne Burrell, whom I adore).  Beans cook at different rates, so in order to make sure that they’re all cooked through, you need to eat 5 of them.  If all 5 are cooked, then you’re golden.  If not, keep on keepin’ on.  I did this and was startled on bean number 4 more than once!  What fun we have…

Finally, the husband came home and the chili finished cooking and all was right with the world.  I served it up with some grated cheddar, some sour cream and cilantro if you’re part of the cilantro generation (I’m convinced distaste for this herb is directly correlated to your graduation year).  Also serve with Beano.

Ta daaaaa…