Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vegetarian Black Bean Chili

Black and gold chili and skillet cornbread - the perfect menu for a Steeler game-day.

This recipe is from America's Test Kitchen.  I tweaked it just a bit to suit my fancy.  The original recipe calls for two red bell peppers, which I found too strong.  I used my own canned tomatoes which added a bit more water.  Too really thicken it up, I pureed a cup of the cooked beans and returned them to the pot, just prior to serving.

Since this is a meatless chili, the chopped mushrooms are a important ingredient because they don't degrade completely while cooking.  They provide body without masking the flavor of the beans.

The chipotle pepper in adobo sauce is an essential ingredient.  One minced teaspoon provides a nice bit of heat, without being overpowering.  Of course, the chipotle pepper is what gives the final product a distinctively smokey flavor.  If you can really tolerate heat, add a bit more, but be careful because they're powerful little buggers.

Finally, if a strictly vegetarian chili isn't all that important to you, add a couple of smoked pork hocks to the pot along with the beans.  Remove after the first hour, and you'll get a chili with a smoked pork flavor.

1 pound white mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon mustard seeds (or 1/2 tsp dry mustard)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds (or 1/2 tsp ground cumin)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tablespoons minced or crushed garlic
1 tablespoon minced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (buy canned, in Mexican food aisle) see note below
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 pound dried black beans, brined (soaked overnight in salt water)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
2 bay leaves
28 ounces of crushed tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, chopped into 1/2 pieces (more if you really like the flavor)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, minced
salt and pepper
lime wedges, shredded mexican cheese, sour cream and chopped green onion for serving

Preheat oven to 325.  Toast mustard and cumin seeds in a dry dutch oven until golden (if using dry seasonings, add with chili powder).  Stir in oil, onion, and mushrooms.  Saute until dry and slightly browned.  Stir in garlic, chopotle, and chili powder (dry seasonings).  Cook one minute, stirring constantly.  Add broth, water, brined beans, sugar, baking soda (to prevent beans from losing their color) one tablespoon of salt, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and place pot on middle rack in oven for one hour.

Remove pot from oven and add tomato and bell pepper, cover and return to oven for additional hour, or until the beans are tender.  Watch that chili doesn't scorch on the bottom.  If needed, add more water.

When beans are tender, remove pot from oven.  If the chili is too thin for your liking, scoop a cup or two of the beans from the pot, and puree in a food processor or food mill.  Return the puree to the pot, and stir.

Add cilantro, season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with lime wedges, shredded cheese, sour cream and chopped green onion. Serve with Old Fashioned Skillet Cornbread.

Note:  I place the remaining chilies in a small ziplock bag and freeze for future use.

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