For as long as I can remember, I always make a big pot of my Chile Con Carne recipe for Super Bowl Sunday. I've been making this for so long, that I don't need a recipe. It's hearty, and not too spicy. With a pile of warm flour tortillas, my men ladle bowls of this to watch the game.
I'm also a fan of vegetarian dishes, but so far most vegetarian chili recipes I've seen, or tried, are most like a bean and vegetable stew. America's Test Kitchen agrees, and so they decided to create a vegetarian recipe that has plenty of beans, and a good meaty flavor-- obviously, without using meat. My husband and I watched their television episode, and we both commented that this would be a good version to try-- for our health's sake, and for variety.
To accomplish making a hearty vegetarian chili, ATK uses a few unlikely ingredients for this chili recipe.
The first one, is 1/2 ounce of dried shiitaki mushrooms. Per ATK, "These nucleotide-rich dried mushrooms have a synergistic effect when combined with glutamates, cranking up savory umami flavor even more. Interesting...
Another ingredient-- walnuts. Per ATK: "Ground toasted walnuts add richness and body as well as tons of flavor-boosting glutamates."
This chili took a bit of time to make-- like about three hours. So, this is one recipe I would reserve as a weekend, or day off, kind of project. I will say that this recipe delivered very impressive and delicious results! In fact, the chili had so much flavor, and had the texture of meat, that this could easily fool carnivores, who are opposed to eating vegetarian fare... believing that this would be bland. Nope. This was far from a bland recipe. I'll show you.
Unlike Texas style chili, we start with beans. You can use kidney beans, black beans or pinto beans-- or a combination. My personal favorite are pinto beans, so that's what I used. ATK does a one-hour soak, by bringing the beans to a boil in salted water. Cover and let stand for one hour.
I love my pressure cooker, I cooked my beans for 12 minutes, and did a natural release. Either way works perfectly.
The next step is in making my own chili powder. For that I roasted two ancho and two New Mexico dried chiles until they were nice and puffy. (I was able to easily find these at my local super market.)
Once cooled, I pulled out the stems and seeds, and gave them a rough chop.
To make the chili powder blend, I used my Vitamix blender (but a coffee grinder will work, too). I also added the dried shiitake mushrooms and dried oregano...
There are a few more ingredients, and steps to go (there will be a printable recipe card at the end of this post).
NOTE: Let's talk about the jalapeños, shall we? The recipe calls for two jalapeños. I used one. Choose wisely-- If you like fire-hot chili, use two. If you like spicy, use one. If you like flavorful, with just a slight bit of spice (like I do), only use 1/2.
So, now most of the components are ready to go, and the cooking part begins.
So, now, comes another "surprise" ingredient-- and it's a grain that I don't often use, but we do like a lot.
See what I mean? This takes a bit of time and patience.
Here's how America's Test Kitchen describes how they achieved a really thick chili:
To capitalize on the ability of the fat in the chili to create body in the sauce, we gave the chili a vigorous stir and a 20-minute rest after we took it out of the oven. Stirring helped to release starch from the beans and the bulgur. The starch then clustered around the fat droplets in the chili, preventing them from coalescing and helping to create a thick, velvety emulsion that never left a slick of oil on top of the chili, no matter how many times we reheated it.
The next time I make this, I will use only half of a jalapeño and I will reduce the recipe in half. This makes a LOT!
Once again, America's Test Kitchen has developed a recipe that delivers on it's promise. I didn't alter anything in their recipe, and I doubt that I would again.