When the weather gives you a chill, I say make chili! It is the perfect one-pot meal for fall and winter. And the best thing about it is that it gets better with time, so it is the perfect make-ahead meal.
<INLINENOTE>Originally, chili con carne was a simple souplike stew made of chilies and beef, and in Texas “a bowl of red” still has no beans about it! But the thing that I love about today’s “chili” is that the new definition allows for almost any combination of ingredients that make up a souplike stew.
I make all kinds of chili — the popular ground beef and bean chili, a mean bowl of red, a white chicken chili with green chilies and hominy, and everything in between. But the chili that started my love affair with the one-pot wonder is my fire-roasted tomato and veggie chili.</INLINENOTE>This vegetarian chili is so dense and “meaty” that you don’t miss the con carne part, and it is something that you can serve just about everyone regardless of food preferences. It is meatless and vegan, gluten-free and – most importantly – a delicious and hearty stick-to-your-ribs version of an American classic.
The key to a great chili is layering the flavors. I do this several ways. I roast the garlic before adding it to the chili, giving the dish a deep garlic flavor that is savory sweet instead of raw and sharp. I also caramelize the mushrooms and vegetables before adding the liquid, again deepening the flavor. Finally, I add a bottle of beer as the chili simmers. This gives the finished dish body and an additional layer of flavor.
Serve this chili with a skillet of hot cornbread and a fresh green salad.
Fire-Roasted Tomato and Veggie Chili
1 large head garlic
1 pound sliced button mushrooms
1 medium red onion, sliced
1 red or yellow bell pepper, cored and chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 10-ounce cans Rotel tomatoes (tomatoes with mild roasted green chilies)
1 14a-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1a cups cooked black beluga lentils (or one 15-ounce can lentils, rinsed)
15 ounce can chili beans
12 ounce bottle beer
6 tablespoons tomato paste
2 to 3 teaspoons chipotle chili powder
2 to 3 teaspoons ancho chili powder
5 to 10 shakes hot sauce, or to taste (optional)
Ground black pepper
Chopped scallions, grated ched- dar cheese, sour cream and oyster crackers, to serve
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the outer layer of papery skin from garlic. Slice off the top ½-inch from pointy top of the head. Drizzle with about 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Wrap the garlic in foil, then roast for 40 minutes, or until the cloves are golden-brown and soft. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Meanwhile, in a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high, heat a healthy splash of olive oil. Add the mushrooms, onion, bell pepper and a pinch of salt. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the vegetables soften. Set aside until the garlic has cooled.
Return the pot to medium heat. Add the roasted garlic by squeezing each clove out of its papery skin. Add all three tomato varieties, lentils, chili beans, beer and tomato paste. Mix well, then bring to a gentle boil. Stir in both chili powders. Cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes, or until thickened and the tomatoes are cooked down. You may need to mash the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon.
Season with hot sauce, salt and pepper. Serve with scallions, cheddar cheese, sour cream and oyster crackers for topping. Serves 6.
Per serving: 430 calories; 150 calories from fat (35 percent of total calories); 17g fat (7g saturated; no trans fats); 30mg cholesterol; 48g carbohydrate; 11g fiber; 10g sugar; 17g protein; 1,330mg sodium.