Saturday, February 2, 2013

Vegetarian chili for a crowd

What is it about the Super Bowl that makes me want to eat chili?

Maybe it's that we've rounded the corner from a moderately warm December into a very cold and dark (and long) January, and a hearty, spicy, warming chili just hits the spot.

Maybe it's that most of those traditional "game-day" foods, like Buffalo wings and artichoke dip and pizza and beer are so dense and heavy that something healthier seems a little more appealing.

This chili doesn't have any meat, but it's so flavorful meat-eaters won't miss it. I think the added step of making a chipotle chile paste really takes it to the next level. Plus, although this makes a lot, it freezes quite well - I like to freeze it in individual portions so I can take one out when I need a quick lunch.

Chipotle chile paste
4-5 chipotle chiles (dried, smoked jalapenos)
2 small onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
4 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper

Heat a seasoned cast iron pan over medium high heat. Cut off the stems of the chiles, then cut in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and reserve for later use. Trim and discard the stem and white ribs of peppers. Toast the chiles about 30 seconds on each side. Submerge in a bowl of hot tap water and weigh down with a plate. Leave for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the cast iron pan, add the onions and garlic. So long as your pan is well seasoned, do not use butter or oil: the point is to get a nice char on them. Cook and stir until very soft and charred, about 15 minutes.

After allotted time, remove chipotles from water. Add with onions, garlic, tomato paste and water to a food processor. Depending on your preference, add some or all of the seeds (this is where a lot of a chile's spice comes from). I ended up using all of the seeds, but it's really up to your taste. If you're wary, just use a little - you can always add some seeds to the chili.

Puree all ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Reserve chili paste for making chili. (Can be made a day or so ahead of time.)

Vegetarian chili
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
Chipotle chile paste
1 yellow pepper, chopped
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice
45 ounces black beans
30 ounces pinto beans
2 bay leaves
3 tsp ground cumin
3 tsp oregano
2 tsp coriander
Salt and pepper
Scallions, for garnish
Fried corn tortilla strips, for garnish

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil. Add onion, cook and stir until tender. Add chile paste and stir for about a minute. Add pepper and celery, cook and stir another few minutes. Pour in tomatoes, both types of beans, and spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer until thick and flavors have melded, about 30-45 minutes.

Garnish with scallions and fried tortilla strips.

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