The Vegan Chili

photo by Cambria Griffith

Mmmmm mmmmm. Napalm in the morning. That aptly describes the flavor of the recipe you’re looking at. But it’s also the smell of victory we found ourselves huffing lustily on a given Sunday last month, when we bombarded four competitors in a vegan chili cook-off. Utter annihilation.

There’s mushroom and TVP meat for chunky umami, heirloom beans, and there’s a ton of fresh roasted green chile for the taste of flame. There is, or course, caramelized tomato paste and a goo of long-cooked onions with harissa. We simmer with beer. We cook cherry tomatoes in garlic oil until they become little bombs that burst in your mouth. We make a sour cream replacement with pulverized fried shallots. We turn the world’s hottest chile pepper into a garnish. So… a warning: This is a prize-winning chili. Do not attempt at home unless your ready for no-shortcut attention to detail, and a long proverbial haul.

Now the question is, having conquered grilled cheese, chili and vegan macaroni, what should we perfect in 2013?

Hot Knives Chili
(Serves 10-12)

“Meat” & Beans
1 cup textured vegetable protein
1/2 cup veggie “bacon” bits
4 shiitake mushrooms
1 white onion
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
sea salt to taste
more olive oil
1 lbs. Anasazi beans
1/4 cup kosher salt

1. Cover the dry Anasazi beans with twice as much water, and add 1/4 cup of salt. Soak for 6-8 hours at room temperature. The salt will help prevent the beans from bursting out of their skins when you cook them.

2. Drain and thoroughly rinse the beans. Place them in a large pot and cover with three times as much water as the now hydrated beans. Set on medium-high heat until you get a boil, and then set to simmer and cook this way for about 45 minutes. Taste and make sure beans are slightly under-cooked (they’ll cook further later). Salt the bean water to taste – it will become part of the future chili. Let the beans sit in their bean water until ready to use.

3. Heat a small sauté pan with medium heat and add the cumin. Agitate frequently to ensure even toasting. Toast for 3 minutes or until the seeds start to pop. Remove from heat and grind with a mortar and pestle – or if you don’t have one a coffee grinder (don’t clean the coffee grinder if its dirty, a little coffee flavor would work for this recipe).

4. Saute and gently hydrate the “meat” in 2-3 stages so not to overload the pan. Heat a saute pan on high heat, add olive oil and some diced shiitake mushrooms and chopped onion. Let them saute for a few minutes then add the textured vegetable protein and bacon bits followed by the cumin. Stir for a minute to keep from sticking and then dash with a cup or so of stock. Season to taste. (This should make the “meat” soften and expand.) Repeat until you have several cups of fluffy, spiced mushroom-protein. Set aside, covered, until ready to use.

Tomato Confit
1 pack cherry tomatoes (red and yellow)
6 cloves garlic
several sprigs of fresh thyme
sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste
2 cups olive oil

5. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Place washed cherry tomatoes in a casserole dish and cover with olive oil. Peel and crush garlic cloves and add them along with thyme and plenty of black pepper and sea salt. Cover with aluminum foil and cook for about an hour, or until tomatoes are fully soft but not exploding. Let cool until ready to use.

“Cheese & Sour Cream”
1 cup Veganaise
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/4 cup fried shallots
1/4 cup minced chives
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon hot sauce of choice

6. In a food processor, pulse the fried shallots until you have a fine onion powder. In a large mixing bowl, combine Veganaise, nutritional yeast, fresh chives, black pepper and shallot powder. Whisk with hot sauce and add salt to taste.

Ghost Chile Death Sauce Sauce
5 dried Ghost Chiles
5 confit tomatoes
1 confit garlic clove
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt

7. Wearing plastic gloves, finger condoms, or seran wrap, CAREFULLY seed the Ghost Chiles and cover them with hot water and steep for 10 minutes.

8. Wash your hands. Do not touch your genitals.

9. Puree all the ingredients. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and disgard the solids left over. Store in a small squeeze bottle until you’re ready to unleash hell.

10. Wash your hands. Do not touch anyone else’s genitals.

Chili Base and Garnish
1/2 cup olive oil
1 and 1/2 quarts vegetable stock
4 onions (mix of colors)
4 stalks celery
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
10 dried Ancho Chilies
5 dried Chipotle Chilies
1 tube (5.3 oz) tomato paste
1 tube (5.3 oz) prepared harissa paste
32 oz. canned tomatoes (chopped)
1 cup roasted green chile (chopped)
2 bay leaves
1 bunch scallions
1 bunch cilantro

11. Now that all other components are ready, make the chile base starting with a onion-chili paste. Place a heavy bottom pot or cast iron skillet on medium heat, add about half the olive oil. Slice 2 and 1/2 onions into half-moons and add them to the pot. Let them cook down slowly for at least 20 minutes, stirring every so often, until they shrink by half. Add the soy sauce and continue to cook for 5 minutes.

12. Seed and stem your chilies. Carefully chop the top off of each pepper, then make a vertical incision and scrape the seeds. Rehydrate your dried chilies by covering them in a bowl with hot water and let sit for 8-10 minutes. Fish out the chilies and combine them with the onion goo in a food processor. Add the whole tube of harissa and as much leftover chile water as needed to make a smooth paste.

13. Finely chop the rest of the onion and the celery. In a large pot, heat more olive oil and add the chopped veg. Saute and stir, cooking for a few minutes just until softened. Now add the tomato paste, cook for a few minutes to caramelize, stirring more. Next, add the onion-chili paste and stir well. Follow this with the remaining vegetable stock ,chopped tomatoes and green chile. Toss in bay leaves. Let this simmer for 15 minutes before tasting and adjusting.

14. Add beans along with some of the bean-water until you have a good mix of beans and vegetables. Let simmer until you’re back up to a bubble.

15. If you’re eating the chile now, you’re ready to combine all the ingredients.: Spoon in a good proportion of mushroom meat, tomato confit and as much of the tomato oil as desired. Top with a squirt of the “cheese and cream”, followed by a well-placed garnish of finely chopped cilantro and scallions. Lastly top with 2-5 drops of the ghost chile sauce. (If not eating right away, store these components separately and combine and re-heat up to 2 days later.)

Beverage: High Water Campfire Stout
Soundtrack: Misfits’ “Green Hell”

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3 Responses to The Vegan Chili

  1. bb says:

    Can you please attempt Hot Knives Doritos

  2. Kudos again on the win, gents. Your chili was indeed delicious, but I still thought I had you bastards for sure with my Srirachili NON Carne. Ah well, the people have spoken!

    I do wish I had some more of your Ghost Chile Death Sauce. I would make some myself, but the whole “Do not touch your genitals” thing throws a real wrench in my usual kitchen routine…

    – Randy –

  3. jjmclell says:

    This is fantastic. I came here because I picked up the Salad Daze book and I stumble across an insane vegan chili recipe…I’ve been surfing the web lately looking for different veggie chilies and nothing has compared to the sounds of this. BTW, good call on the non-touching of the genitalia…been there, done that.



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