What is it about chili, anyway? My recipe calendar reports that this kitchen has produced eight pots of chili since the weather turned cooler. We've made eggs and oatmeal and salads more often but other than that, if it's a food race, chili wins, hands down.
With a freezer full of meat and more on the way, no surprise, our chilis tend toward meaty affairs. But ever since tasting the Three-Bean Chipotle Chili from The Wolf, a fun little scratch-cooking spot not far from here, my taste buds have longed for another all-vegetable chili, a small bowl for lunch, a spoonful or two on the side of a poached egg in the morning, a small measure spread on a Mexican Pizza (Oaxaca Tlayuda). I've toned the heat back, waaaaay back in fact, but this is a chili that's easy to dial up or down, aiming for that sweet spot – spicy spot?! – that suits your mood or your taste.
CHILI WITH MAC 'N' CHEESE Yum! Who else loves to pair spicy chili with something warm but definitely not spicy? Chili with mashed potatoes? Years back, Iowa farm wives used this combination to extend chili fed to hungry farm workers for noon dinner. Chili with cubes of cornbread? My personal favorite! Until now! Chili with mac 'n' cheese? Back in November, we headed to Texas with my dad to visit my sister and her family, then drove down to the Hill Country to celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday in Kerrville where our friends Pat and Keri Wilt own a wine bar and restaurant called Grape Juice. I was in total heaven with a big bowl of "crack"eroni 'n' cheese with cabrito chili. Since, I've served chili with mac 'n' cheese for family here and oh! it goes down easy!
RECIPE for VEGETABLE CHILI with SWEET POTATOES & CHIPOTLE
Time to table: Best made a day ahead
Makes about 10 cups
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, trimmed and diced
2 large carrots, trimmed, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, trimmed and diced
1 poblano chili, trimmed and diced
1 red bell pepper, trimmed and diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 cup (about 4 ounces/100g) frozen corn kernels
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 16-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 16-ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 16-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon mashed chipotles and adobo sauce (see TIPS)
3 cups water plus more as needed
In a large, heavy pot, heat olive oil on medium high until shimmery. Add the vegetables as they're prepped, stirring with each addition. Stir in the spices, then the tomatoes and beans. Stir together the mashed chipotles and adobo sauce with a tablespoon or two of water; stir this and the remaining water into the pot, there should be enough to not quite cover the vegetables. Bring the chili to a boil, then finish one of three ways:
STOVETOP Cover and reduce the heat to maintain a slow simmer, let simmer for about 30 minutes.
OVEN Transfer chili to a 200F oven for about 4 hours. It's fine to leave the chili like this all day if you choose, I often do.
SLOW COOKER Transfer chili to a slow cooker and cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 6 hours. (I haven't made this in the slow cooker but the times are likely close, even though slow cookers do vary so much.)
TO FINISH After cooking, if the chili is a little bit water-y vs chili-y, remove the lid and let simmer on the stovetop until enough water evaporates. Let cool, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
To use so little oil with so many vegetables is a balance of heat and fat. I start off with just a tablespoon of oil, just enough to really turn the onions, carrots and celery quite golden. If the pan gets dry, I splash in a little water to avoiding burning the vegetables.
For years, I've purchased small cans of chipotle with adobo sauce. You only use a little bit at a time and typically only the mild and smoky adobo sauce that the ever-so-hot chipotle chilis sit in. Recently I learned the trick to mash the whole can in a small food processor for storage in a small glass jar – the stuff keeps for months in the refrigerator – and there's less waste. Now an entire can costs only a couple of bucks so it's not a huge money-saver. But it still makes me feel better!
Want to turn this into a Master Recipe for Vegetable Chili? Start with an onion, then add about 2 pounds of different vegetables, aiming for 4 to 6 different vegetables of different textures and colors, all diced to about the same size.
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MORE FAVORITE CHILI RECIPES
Quick Green Chile Stew
(the two recipes below are more 'summer' chilis, beautiful vegetable stews)
Southern Farm-Stand Stew
~ Summer Vegetable Stew ~
~ more chili recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Chocolate Chili ~
~ My Sister's Recipe for Crockpot Chili ~
~ White Chicken Chili ~
~ more chili recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column
famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.
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