Monday, March 15, 2010

Robert's Childhood Chili, All Grown Up

Here I am, guest posting once again. This - pretty damn classic, if I say so myself - recipe is basically an amalgam of childhood memories and Craig Claiborne’s “Chili Con Carne” from the venerable New York Times Cookbook (1961). I know that wars have raged, thousands have died, and states have been formed and dissolved over the various styles of chili (beans? no beans? if yes, how many beans? how big should the vegetables be? should there even be vegetables?), but to be frank, I don’t find such debates all that interesting. Personally, if I can achieve a reasonable, vegan approximation of what I ate as a child, I’m all happy.

As it happens, this recipe is one of those facsimiles so reasonable that you really have to wonder what the hell was up with all that animal-killing stuff in the first place. I am fortunate in this regard, because the chili my mother made used ground meat, rather than big chunks of cow, which makes it ever so much easier to imitate (and if you’re one of those haters who stalk vegan blogs to point out how freaky it is for herbivores to imitate the textures of pre-vegan dishes, I have three important words for you: poo poo bums. So there).

In any event, chili is one of those dishes that seems to span decades - yea, verily, even generations! - social classes, and political sensibilities, so here’s a good all-purpose recipe that will please at barbecues, church socials, Samhain celebrations, potlucks, brisses, and ritual feasts for any religion or anti-religion you care to name. I myself am not a fan of large, discernible chunks of vegetables in chili; I like it smooth enough that you could conceivably spoon it over rice, if that's what you're into. So I encourage you to chop those veggies fine, kids, and don't forget the cornbread!

Robert's Childhood Chili, All Grown Up
~ 2 tbsp olive oil
~ 1 large red onion, chopped
~ 2 stalks celery, small dice
~ 1 large carrot, small dice
~ 1 bell pepper, small dice
~ 2 tsp each: ground cumin, chili powder
~ 1.5 tsp kosher or regular salt
~ 1 tsp each: marjoram, coriander, celery seed
~ 1/2 tsp each: cinnamon, cayenne
~ Dash nutmeg
~ 3 tbsp minced garlic
~ 1 pkg. vegan ground "beef" like Gimme Lean, or  TJ's or Nate's meatballs, mashed
~ 1/4 cup red wine
~ 2 cups no chicken broth
~ 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
~ 1 28 oz. can kidney beans
~ 1 tbsp. each: vegan Worcestershire sauce, HP Sauce
~ 1 tsp. Marmite
~ 2 large bay leaves

~ Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat; add the onion, celery, and carrot; sauté 5 minutes.
~ Add the bell pepper, garlic, and dry seasonings and cook about 2-3 minutes.
~ Add the ground "beef,"cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then pour in the wine.
~ Allow the wine to cook off for a minute or two and then add all the remaining ingredients. Mix well, bring the whole business to a boil ever so briefly. Lower the heat to simmer and cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until you reach your Platonic ideal of chili consistency.
~ Remove the bay leaves, and serve with cornbread, and maybe a green salad to satisfy honor. (Or not).


  1. Try bulgur in place of ground meat in your mom's chili. I think it's the perfect texture for chili.

  2. Awesome :) You'll have to let me know if you give it a try. Your tofu benedict looks so delicious, by the way.

  3. I like to think of myself as a latter-day Yosemite Sam.

  4. This looks amazing! Thanks for sharing.