I haven’t updated the blog here in forever – work has been crazy and on top of that we have been spending a ton of free time volunteering at Carolina Waterfowl Rescue.
Even though the rescue has dozens of volunteers taking care of birds every day of the week, it also has monthly “workdays” where people that don’t do a weekly volunteer shift can come and work on special projects. For the last one, I made some vegan chili and cornbread and got a lot of requests for the recipe.
I made the full disclaimer that I didn’t measure anything for the chili but I would attempt to write up the recipe.
Here it is! The basics to realize about chili is that you need a protein, some good quality tomatoes, cumin, and and some chili peppers (and in my mind, it better have beans – I know Texans disagree but I discount their opinion on this one.) Once you get those parts in place, you can take it a million different directions.
Soak the beans overnight in approximately twice as much water as beans. Allow plenty of room for expansion.
Cook the beans in plenty of water and the bay leaves until they are ALMOST done (tender but not mushy.) The cooking time will depend on the bean. Pintos probably need 1-1.5 hours, red kidney beans 2 hours. Test for done-ness frequently as the age of the beans, altitude, etc affect bean cooking time!
When the beans are done, drain them and reserve a cup or two of the cooking liquid. This can be used to add back to the chili later to thin it (optional - depends how much you like the "Beany" taste)
If you are using dried chiles, soak them in plenty of hot water so they re-hydrate while you are prepping your other ingredients. After they soak for 30-60 minutes, remove them from the liquid and chop them. You can also add the chiles and some of the soaking water to your blender and make a paste.
I love chipotles for chili - their smoky flavor is a nice touch. Dried chipotles work great, as well as canned chipotles in adobo.
Some dried chiles's seeds and membranes can add a bitter taste so it's best to try to remove as much of that as you can.
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and add the chorizo. Stir frequently as you heat/brown the chorizo in the olive oil (4-5 minutes)
Add onions, garlic, peppers and spices with a little salt and stir - cook for 2 minutes or so.
Add the tomato paste and stir well to combine with everything. Cook the tomato paste for another 3-5 minutes. This cooks out the "raw tomato" flavor and allows the spices and aromatics to wake up in the heat.
Add the beans and combine well with everything already in the pot.
Add all the canned tomatos (if you are using whole tomatoes, you may want to hit them with a stick blender first, or at least crush them up well with your hands.
At this point, if the beans are not covered completely with plenty of liquid (with an extra inch or so of liquid over them) add vegetable broth or stock and/or some of the bean cooking liquid. Cover and bring to a boil.
After your chili achieves a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and let it go for 2-3 hours until the beans are super-tender and the liquid is slightly reduced. Add additional ground meat substitute if you are using it and cook for another 20 minutes or so. Taste often at this stage and add salt if needed until it tastes perfect.
A good starting point for the amount of peppers is probably 2-3 fresh jalapenos or 2 tsp of dried chile flakes. If you like it hotter ( and I do - MUCH hotter) try fresh or dried habanero, ghost chile, etc for heat and the dozens of milder, flavorful peppers that can be found at many Mexican or Asian groceries (Ancho, Chipotle, Chili de Arbol, etc.)
Enjoy with tortilla chips, cornbread,etc - and vegan cheese is a nice addition. This is one of my favorites lately: https://avocadosandales.com/2015/11/03/aquafaba-cheddar/