NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

October 10, 2012

Meaty veg chili with seriously layered flavors

When the weather gives you a chill, 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.

Originally, chili con carne was a simple soup-like 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 soup-like 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.

When I was a just starting out, this was the dish that I made for housewarming gifts or for friends who were under the weather, as well as for big gatherings when cash was short but friendship was large. I would make a huge pot of this chili and a skillet full of cornbread and that would be the party.

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, vegan, 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 additional layers of flavor.

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