A few weeks ago people at work started to talk about how much they enjoyed last year's chili potluck lunch. It cropped up here and there in various conversations and someone mentioned that they had felt a bit left out as they don't eat meat. Of course, my response was that vegetarian chilis do exist. All this to say that my company had their chili lunch this week and that, somehow, I found myself responsible for the vegetarian one. Which actually was timely in a way as I did need to do a dried bean clear-out before placing my annual bean order with Rancho Gordo. (Those of you who are kind enough to subscribe to this blog have heard me speak of this at length before and, for those of you who haven't, this is an October / November kitchen ritual for me which I am pretty sure that I will write about again once my beans for 2023 arrive.)
Since it is impossible to make chili in any measurement that is not a vat, that is what I made. Took some to work, froze some for me, and -- to be honest -- liked mine best of all of those on offer in all its mole inspired tanginess.
5 cups dried beans (I used a mixture of turtle, black and Vaquero beans but use anything that you have on hand or your favorite chili beans)
1 large white or yellow onion, peeled, halved and cut into thin half moons
2 cups pumpkin puree or 4 cups pumpkin bisque before adding the cream
4 cups tomato sauce (jarred works too)
1 Tbsp favorite hot sauce
1 dried Ancho chile
1 dried Guajillo chili
1 dried Pasilla chili
1 cinnamon stick
2 Tbsps American chili powder
2 tsps smoked paprika
2 tsps sumac
1 tsp bay leaf powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 disc Mexican chocolate or 3 Tbsps unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbsp olive oil
4-6 cups water or vegetable stock
Salt to taste
Place the beans in a large bowl along with one teaspoon of salt. Cover with boiling water and set aside for at least a couple of hours.
Place the dried chilis and the cinnamon stick in a separate bowl. Cover with boiling water and set aside as well.
When ready to make the chili, drain and rinse the beans. Remove the stems from the dried chilis, discard the cinnamon stick and blend the chilis well in the liquid in which they have been soaking. If bits remain, strain the processed liquid through a sieve -- you want a smooth liquid.
Preheat the oven to 275.
Place the olive oil in a large oven-safe stock pot. As soon as it shimmers add the onions and the American chili powder, the smoked paprika, bay leaf powder, sumac and cumin. Stir to combine and cook over low heat, stirring from time to time until the onions are softened and starting to caramelize, about ten minutes.
Remove from the heat. Add the beans to the pan and stir well to coat with the spiced onions. Add half each of the pumpkin, the tomato sauce and the chili liquid. Stir to combine before adding the disc of chocolate or cocoa powder and four cups of the water.
Cover and place in the oven for four hours. Stir well at the half way mark.
At the four hour mark, remove from the oven. Stir well and add the remaining pumpkin, tomato sauce, chili liquid and the hot sauce. Stir to combine and add some of the remaining two cups of water based on how dry the beans are and how soupy you like your chili.
Cover the pan and place back in the oven for an additional two hours. Taste the beans and cook for an additional hour if needed. I know this seems like a lot but beans do benefit from low and slow cooking.
When the beans are to your liking, turn off the oven and allow to cool while absorbing the oven's residual heat.
Refrigerate overnight. Reheat in an 350 oven for one hour and adjust the seasoning once warmed through.
I served this dolloped with sour cream into which I had liberally mixed chopped green onions and cilantro.