Sunday, February 8, 2015

vegetarian dried-bean chili.

It seems that February is keen on exhibiting polar vortex like tendencies which normally I don't mind but if I have discovered anything these past couple of weeks, it's that work pants are not designed to withstand sub-arctic temperatures.   By the time I return home, my goal is to thaw myself in front of our oven (since someone is keen on making it his goal to see if we can avoid ever turning on the heat).  The oven has turned into my own personal heater which mean's I've been very into braises, roasts, and long simmering dishes like chili.   

A few months back I discovered Rancho Gordo and basically fell head over heels for their beans. I ordered a few bags and then, when Tyler and I were out in California for our Honeymoon, I stumbled across their shop in the San Francisco Ferry Market Plaza.  I may have purchased several pounds of beans and loaded our suitcases with them. Thankfully they returned home unscathed.   As someone who eats minimal amounts of meat, beans (and eggs!) are my go-to sources of protein so you can only imagine my delight at discovering this heirloom bean shop.  I've been making all sorts of bean dishes (soups! on toast!) but chili was something I had yet to tackle.  

If you are purebred Texan, the idea of vegetarian chili probably sounds like blasphemy but if you are from the North where chili can include beans (and still be called chili) this probably sounds rather delightful.  Beans are cooked slow and low in a myriad of spices and crushed tomatoes to produce a full-bodied chili that tastes meaty without including a lick of meat.  It's flavorful and comforting and the kind of thing that begs to be served during a February polar-vortex-esq snow storm.  Best of all the chili tastes better the longer it sits, so day 3 of eating chili is even better then day 1 (WIN-WIN).   

Vegetarian Dried-Bean Chili
Recipe adapted and inspired by here and here.   

If you are inspired to make your own chili powder (and I encourage you to do so), this guide is awesome.  

This is the "when I have a whole day to make chili" dish.  If you are looking for a quick-cooking (canned bean) chili, this is the one I recommend.   

Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped small
1 to 2 peppers of your choice (I personally love poblano’s but bell peppers will work), finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 chipotle chilies in adobo, chopped + 2 tablespoons chipotle chili sauce
1 teaspoons hot sauce (plus more at the end if you choose)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons table salt or 2 ½ teaspoons kosher or coarse salt
1 12-ounce bottle beer
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, fire-roasted if you can find them
1 1/2 cups mixed dried beans (pinto and black beans are my beans of choice)
3 1/2 to 4 cups water
2 tablespoons masa (if desired)

To serve: Lime wedges, sour cream, diced white onion, hot sauce, cilantro, corn or flour tortillas or tortilla chips or rice, cheese, avocado

Heat oil in the bottom of a medium-sized heavy pot or Dutch oven.  Once warm, add onion and cook for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add any fresh peppers and cook for 3 more minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano and salt and cook for 2 minutes, until browned and deeply fragrant. Add beer and scrape up any bits stuck to the pot. Boil until reduced by half.

Add tomatoes, dried beans, chipotle chiles (and sauce), hot sauce, apple cider vinegar, and the smaller amount of water. Bring mixture to a full boil and boil for one minute, then reduce heat to a very low, gentle simmer, place a lid on your pot, and cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Add the last 1/2 cup water if mixture seems to be getting dry, though I didn’t need it in most of my tested batches. If a slightly more sloshy chili wouldn’t bother you, you can add it from the get-go.  Stir in the masa if you want your chili a little thicker.

Store in the fridge for up to a week (best eaten the day after it is made).  Can also be frozen! 

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