Vegan Chili – No, This Isn’t a Joke

So based on my most recent posts you might assume that I’m just some asshole that likes to force his opinions of various food items and restaurants while having no real culinary skills to bring to the table.  You would be about 35% accurate on the first part of that statement but I can actually cook a little bit.  My problem is I rarely cook the same thing twice so I’m really not great at one particular dish.  The nice part about this is I’m pretty good at cooking pretty much anything you could think of.

vegan

Most recently I dabbled in a cooking without the use of any meat or dairy, which was a real challenge for a guy like me.  More accurately, I wanted to make the meatiest tasting chili I possibly could using no meat products.  I know, I know, why would I do something like this?  I did this because it’s interesting to me to do the research on different processes and ingredients that would challenge me and grow my culinary knowledge. I’m not all about just smoking large portions of meat and eating tacos.  I’m in this for the adventure and a deeper understanding.  #zen

So in my research, I found the best information from one of the better food writers/experimenters on the internets, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt.  I like to think of him as a worthwhile replacement for Alton Brown, until Good Eats comes back.  If you are interested in the science of food and/or some alternate techniques, check out his Food Lab column on Serious Eats.  A lot of his content is higher level and goes into a ton of detail but it’s all worth a read.

I decided that if I was not going to use any meat, I was going to have to get flavor from as many different places as possible.  The most obvious place to start was creating a chili paste rather than use a chili powder.  Now, creating a chili paste sounds like it might be difficult but I can show you how its done in only two steps.  Better yet, I can provide photos.

Step One: Obtain a bunch of dried chilis.  For this, I used Arbol and Ancho chilis.  Add them to a large pot with water and simmer until soft.

IMG_20170728_133616.jpg

Step two: Add chilis to either a blender, food processor or use an immersion blender.  I added two canned adobo peppers for a little smokiness.  Then you know, blend them all up in a paste.

DSC00052

Cool, now you have chili paste.  This stuff will taste completely different than a store bought chili powder and won’t make your family hate you because of the heat.  It adds a nice smoky, sweet spicy base to the chili for you to build on.  If you have a Mexican grocery by you an entire bag containing twenty of these guys can be purchased for the same price as a store bought container of chili powder that will give you about as much flavor as wood shavings.  If you prefer a powder, you can simply leave them dry and grind them up in a food processor.

The next question for me was how do we replace that hearty, rich taste of ground beef? I could step up all the other ingredients but how would I do this without using some terrible soy protein beef crumble replacement?  I quickly found my answer in three different ingredients.

The first is a product called Marmite, which is a yeast extract that adds that heartiness to chili usually created by adding meat.  Marmite is famous in Britain as a spread for toast, but it’s the real MVP in your life if you’re looking for a meat replacement in stews and soups. The second was using a soy sauce to replace the saltiness and give a little tang. The third is beans, lots of beans.  I used three different types, with all three giving it a different meaty texture.

marmite

I would like to stop here and reiterate that you shouldn’t use meat substitute products. They lack any kind of meat texture and simply just aren’t very much fun.  It’s much more fun to experiment with different ingredients and techniques to create your own.  Plus, they’re all pretty gross.

Moving on to the beans.  Beans are really the magic ingredient to any vegetarian chili. Add as many ingredients as you want to enhance the taste but vegetarian chili is absolutely gross without some bite and texture.  The obvious solution is black beans and chili beans.  Simply throw them in for the last twenty minutes of cooking and you have a hearty chili.  Taking it a step further — get some garbanzo beans, aka chickpeas aka the great white bean, rinse them to get the shell off, pulse them in a food processor a few times and you have yourself the cheapest and easiest ground beef substitute you can find.  They will absorb every little bit of the chili paste, the marmite and the soy sauce. Oh, and I heard they’re healthy too.

From there it’s all the usual ingredients you would normally add to your chili in the amount that you like them.  A can of tomatoes, an onion here, a few cloves of garlic there.  A dash of cumin, some oregano.  I always like to add some masa, or corn flour, to the mixture for the last ten minutes of cooking to give it a little corn flavor.  That’s the beauty of chili though, add whatever you want.  If the base ingredients are good, you’re all set.

DSC00057

If you’re a recipe person, here’s a recipe for you.  As always, I encourage you to make this yours and experiment.  The keys in this are the Marmite, soy sauce and garbanzo beans.

  • 8 dried chilis (arbol, ancho, whatever you like)
  • 2 whole chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans chickpeas
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes packed in juice
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 cloves garlic (i really like garlic)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon marmite or vegemite
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans dark red kidney beans, drained
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons masa
  • Salt pepper (obviously)

If you’re the kind of person that needs step by instructions with your recipes here’s where I need you to get dangerous and just throw all of this together and see how it turns out.  I will say that you should add the flavoring ingredients first to build some character, then add the liquid to expand that flavor, then add the texture to absorb that flavor.

I hope you will enjoy this and try to make your own vegan chili.  If a guy with a pig tattooed on his arm can have some fun with this then so you can you.

Hot Sauce

I love me some hot sauce.  Not that kind that gives you second-degree mouth burns and prevents you from tasting anything else.  I love the kind of hot sauce that acts as more of a buddy to the food you’re pouring it on — An enhancement, if you will.  I belong to a monthly hot sauce club that sends me a different bottle of hot sauce each month.  Again, I would like to re-iterate that I enjoy hot sauce very much.

The only problem with hot sauce is you never know what you’re going to get until you dump some on your food.  Yes, it’s a fun adventure to try different varieties and flavors but if you don’t like a bottle it will typically sit in your refrigerator for the next year until it goes bad.  Also, hot sauce isn’t cheap.  Good bottles can cost upwards of $10-$15 these days.  THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER SOLUTION!

Oh yeah, make your own hot sauce.  If you have a pan and a blender/immersion blender/food processor you can make hot sauce.  Don’t know how to cook?  Doesn’t really matter. Follow a basic recipe, make some changes based on how you like your flavor and throw it in the blender.  You have got yourself some hot sauce.

Now here is the part where I go completely off on a tangent and tell you a story about my life that you probably don’t care about that relates to the topic of the post.  It has always been my dream to open a food truck or small restaurant that marries BBQ and Mexican food.  For example, the carnitas would be smoked pork shoulder and could either be served as a BBQ plate or on tacos or a burrito.  Same with the chicken, beef and other meats.  Everything would be smoked and available in a variety of different options. Taking it a step further, there would be ten different sauces to add to your food.  Five would be BBQ and five would be Mexican.  This adventure of making hot sauce recently re-ignited that dream.  If you’re actually reading this and support this dream I would like your input.  I may or may not be doing this in my backyard all Summer.  OK, moving on.

I would like to share with you the easiest hot sauce recipe you will ever make.  This is a clone of the big bottle of green sauce you will find at any taco truck or taqueria. Remember last week I said that La Torre Taqueria motivated me to make my own sauce? This entire bottle costs about $1.50 to make and tastes good on pretty much anything.

  • 6 Jalapeños
  • 1/4 Yellow Onion
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic (if you like garlic, use 3.  I use 3.)
  • 1/2 cup Canola Oil
  • Tsp Apple Cider Vinegar

Directions:

  1. Boil jalapeños and onion for 15-20 minutes, or until you can stick a fork easily through one of the jalapeños.
  2. Remove and cut stems off.  Save the seeds, unless you don’t like heat.  If you’re a sissy like that, remove the seeds.
  3. Combine jalapeños, onion, garlic, oil and vinegar into whatever blending device you’re using.  Puree until smooth.

That’s it.  You have hot sauce.  This mixture will be very spicy until it cools and the flavors settle down.  Always use either canola oil or grapeseed oil in this recipe which will give you creamier texture.

The beauty of this recipe is you can do whatever you want to modify it.  Want it spicier? Use different peppers.  Want it a little smoky?  Roast your jalapenos.  Like garlic? Add more garlic.  Like your sauce a little tangy?  Add more vinegar.  You can add whatever you want to this to modify the flavor to the way you like it, which is the beauty of cooking things for yourself.  As always, I encourage you to change up the recipes I post on here to make something that you like.

On a side note and to close out this post, I made this late at night after work and didn’t feel like taking the step-by-step pictures that most people expect with recipes.  I did, however, capture a picture of my hot sauce smiling.  Hopefully that’s enough for you.

IMG_20170423_223717-01

Jerk Chicken Curry

I’ve had an itch to cook a couple of things lately.  First two things on list have been jerk chicken and curry.  I decided to get a little crazy today and not only combine the two but add the smoker into the equation.   I figured smoking the chicken and then finishing it in a dutch oven (HAHAHA) filled with curry and potatoes would be pretty hard to screw up. Turns out, I was right.

Now I have never cooked jerk chicken or curry before.  I know very little about the process of cooking either so if you’re here looking for some advanced recipe, this is not the place.  If you’re like “Oh shit, I was always curious how to make that jerk stuff and curry sounds pretty good too”, this is your post.  I figured for my first time making both, I would take a few short cuts with seasonings and use the store bought kind.  I did use Pluto’s Caribbean Bliss Seasoning, which is hard to come by in these parts but worth ordering if you’re going to be a complete jerk.  I also used Food Saver’s Quick Marinator to cheat on marinating the chicken.  This little guy will give you the same taste of marinating overnight in about an hour.  Highly recommend if you’re already using the Food Saver.  If not, get off your ass and check it out.

I used drums and thighs for this but if you’re a white meat kind of person you can use chicken breasts or a whole chicken.  I like the darker meat with the bone in because I can get it a little more tender than the breast.  Also when you’re simmering chicken in the dutch oven (HAHAHA) there’s just something about meat falling off of a bone.

IMG_20170411_130909

From there the meat went into the smoker.  My idea here was to obviously build a smokey flavor but also to build bark on the outside that the curry would soak in to.  I used mesquite chips and these sat for an hour at 225 degrees.  If you’re not about the smoke life, you can add the chicken directly into the curry to cook until done.  If you’re actually following this recipe, you’re looking at about 3lbs of chicken.  And yes, I know my smoker is dirty.

IMG_20170411_150902

If you’re on the fence on whether or not to buy a smoker, let me be the one to throw you directly off of the fence directly into buying one.  It’s almost Summer.  Just do it.  It’s one of the better culinary purchases I have made in the past few years.  I’m currently using a really basic Char-Broil Electric Vertical Smoker that will run you about $150.  If you’re hesitant because you’re not sure how to tell when your meat is one, get your hands on a wireless thermometer.  The ThermoPro thermometer lets you put a probe into your meat and communicates with another unit wirelessly within 300 ft.  It’s cheating, but it takes the guessing out of it.

IMG_20170411_152412

From there, the chicken should have a nice bark on the outside for the curry to soak in to. You can leave it in the smoker for longer than I did — some recommend the chicken get to 175 degrees — but my chicken is going to cook longer in a pot of simmering curry. You could even just eat this chicken without throwing it into a dutch oven (HAHAHA) filled with curry.  Trust me, just some chicken and seasoning in a smoker is good enough to eat but I’m not about being basic like that.

For your curry you basically just need a bunch of vegetables, curry powder or paste, stock, peppers and coconut milk.  Any combination or those ingredients is probably going to give you something pretty delicious.  I’m not about following exact recipes because I think it’s more fun to figure things out as you go.  I’ll give you mine, but do yourself a favor and use it as a road map.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped up
  • An entire head of garlic.  As should be the case in every recipe.
  • However much ginger you like, I use 2 tsp
  • 1 habanero pepper, chopped up
  • 7 tablespoons of curry powder
  • 2 potatoes chopped up
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • However much hot sauce you like

To make the curry, pour some oil in a large pot or a dutch oven (HAHAHAHAHA) and get it hot.  Add the onions, garlic, ginger and habanero and let them simmer for five minutes or so until the onions are translucent.  From there, add the curry powder and let it cook into the onion mixture for a bit until your house smells funny.  After the flavor has built up between all these ingredients add your potatoes to the party.   Stir it all together and let it all soak into the potatoes.  Once you start to see the bottom of your pot get a little brown it’s time to deglaze the pan and create the real flavor.  Throw in your chicken stock and stir it up. SHAKE UP YOUR COCONUT WATER and add it to the pot.  Add Worcestershire, vinegar and hot sauce and OMG you just made curry.

IMG_20170411_151932

Now you could add literally any meat to this and let it simmer and you’re looking at something that’s going to be delicious.  You could add raccoon meat but you would probably get a tapeworm.  You could even use a vegetable stock and more vegetables and have a fine vegetarian dish but I can’t encourage that type of behavior.  The key here is you have to let it reduce to build a marriage of everything in that pot.  If you serve it too early it’s going to taste different depending on what part of the pot you’re using.  Let it hang out for 30-45 mins while it builds flavor.

I added the chicken and let it cook on low for an hour while the curry reduced and soaked into the chicken.  Careful not to stir to often so you don’t break up the chicken, potatoes or disrupt the flavor building process.

IMG_20170411_152521_1

The best part of this is if you leave the leftovers overnight the curry continues to hang out with the chicken and improves in flavor.  This is a great example of throwing a bunch of ingredients, cooking contraptions and techniques together and getting something really great.  So again, please do not follow my recipe exactly how I wrote it. Make changes, add things, take things out — That’s the fun of cooking.  Hope you enjoy whatever you come up with.

Life of Pablo Chili

One of my favorite things to cook, especially during the winter time, is chili.  You have a few base ingredients but you can get away with throwing a bunch of shit together and having it consistently taste good if you sort of what you’re doing. My chili is different each time I make it, so I thought I would post my current recipe and then take a Life of Pablo style approach.  If you’re not a Kanye fan and have no idea what that means, I will be changing this post after it is completed as I come up with better ideas and modify the recipe.  It’s a genius thing.

I don’t like to just post a recipe and say HERE YOU GO!  This is more of a roadmap on how to complete the base chili recipe that I use but ways to make it better or more to your style. I believe most recipes should not be followed 100% because it’s more fun and you learn more about flavors and seasonings by experimenting.. so by all means, take my recipe and do what you want.

The base to any good chili is going to be meat and some sort of tomato.  I know, I know, white bean chicken chili is delicious but I would classify that as a variation of tortilla soup and not a chili.  I always use ground chuck, as it becomes the most tender out of all the meats I’ve used and if you’re just throwing together a pot of chili at home there’s not much sense in going big on the meat.  You can use sirloin or a cut with a lower fat percentage but I think you’ll just be spending more money with weaker results.  I do use ground beef but feel free to use cubes or whatever consistency you like.  I would still stick to chuck, even if you are going the chunky route.

I use canned tomatoes.  I know there’s a lot of people out there who use the fresh kind but I’m just trying to make chili here.  There are other fresh ingredients in here so I’m not feeling too bad about using some canned vegetables.  Feel free to crush and chop your tomatoes, I’ll be over here using the canned kind.

Chop up literally whatever you want to throw into the chili.  Like I said before, it’s extremely difficult to mess up chili.  Use whatever peppers, vegetables and spices you want.  Hell, throw in potatoes if you really want to.  Currently I’m using onion, garlic, jalapeno pepper, poblano pepper, habanero pepper and celery.  I only season with salt, pepper, good chili powder, bay leaf and some cumin.

I would like to throw this out there — don’t use dollar store chili powder. You can go a little cheap on the beef but spend a couple of extra dollars or if you’re really feeling crazy, make your own chili powder.  Pretty much any grocery store carries dried chilis which only need to make a trip to your blender for a minute or two to become chili powder.  That value brand chili powder will absolutely destroy your chili.

Finally, I use corn flour in my chili to give it a little bit of that corn aftertaste.  I had previously used actual corn kernels in here but found that the masa adds a more subtle taste and thickens the chili to your liking after the cooking process.

wp-image-1887904846jpg.jpg

Recipe time:

  • 2lbs of ground chuck
  • Half an onion
  • One head of garlic.  Yes, use the whole thing, unless you don’t like garlic.  If you don’t like garlic, please close this site and never return.
  • One jalapeno pepper
  • One poblano pepper
  • One habanero (remove seeds for less spice)
  • One stick of celery
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chili powder to taste – Usually 3 tablespoons
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can of rotel diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup of masa harina (corn flour)
  • Cup and a half of beef stock
  • 2 15oz cans of beans – Whichever you like

Step One: Brown your beef and make sure to remove some of the fat but not ALL of the fat. Fat is flavor but you dont want a ton of it in here.  It will make the chili bland.

Step Two: Remove the beef and add in your garlic, jalapeno, poblano, habanero and celery to the remaining beef fat in the same pan. Add a little bit of oil if needed.  Sweat all of these ingredients for a few minutes but do not brown.

Step Three: Add your beef to the veggie mixture and allow them all to become friends for a few minutes.  Then add your tomatoes and beef stock.  If you like a really beefy flavor you can use more beef stock but it will need more time to reduce.  Add your chili powder, bay leaf and cumin as well.

Step Four: Let it simmer on medium for two hours.  At the two hour point, your ground chuck should become one with the other ingredients and all of the flavors should be melded together.  It is at this point that you want to stir your masa harina in with about a half cup of beef stock in a separate cup until it becomes a paste.  Then add that into your chili and stir together

Step Five: Add your beans and cook for ten minutes.

THAT’S IT!  You now have delicious chili that hopefully you modified a bit from my recipe and personalized it to your liking.