Ready for a story guys? Here goes. Last week at work we had a chili cook-off. The First Annual for our little company, I’m guessing. We’re a team of about 30 people, with maybe two-thirds of us in the office on a “busy day.” So, because most of us like to eat — and a handful of us really like to cook — we had a chili cook-off. The word quaint should probably be in there somewhere.
Requirements for the cook-off? None. No heat restrictions, specific diet accommodations, nada. This was anything goes, people. And guess-friggin’-what.
This Vegan Soyrizo & Sweet Potato Chili took it home.
The phrase “yeah baby’ comes to mind.
…Against a carnivore’s dream of tender braised beef and Mexican spices, the Vegan Soyrizo chili stood strong.
…To the slow-cooked, searingly hot concoction of chorizo and beer, this Bad Mamajama said Efffffffffff Youuuuuuuuuu.
…Even its fellow Vegan — its fragrant and saucy, bean-laden brethren — had to bow down.
That’s right, out of four — count ‘em — four whole chilis in the cook-off, this fineassmofo snagged First Prize.
So maybe the odds were ever in my favor. I’ll take a win where I can get one. And when it comes to chili, there’s kind of a lot of cred associated with being able to slap somethin’ as game changing as Award Winning in the title — even if it is a hippie little chili full of cinnamon and other earthy crap.
Yeah, ok, it’s weird. But it’s also really delicious. All sweet and savory and smoky and numnum. Consistent with my animal-free Earth Day theme from last week, making this chili has an “I heart amminals” satisfation factor equivalent to rocking a baby panda to sleep in your arms.
But less fluffy.
Pandas don’t taste good.
Note: I love using dried mushrooms in a dish like this. The flavors are supremely concentrated and they’re a tremendous value. To hydrate mushrooms, rinse dried mushrooms and add to a saucepan with 3 cups water. Bring to boil. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Drain mushrooms, reserving resulting stock. Filter stock through a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth before using.
- 2.5 oz dried ancho chilies, stems and seeds removed
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 T olive oil
- 12 oz soy chorizo (such as Trader Joe’s)
- 4 ribs celery, diced
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 4 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes packed in oil, diced
- 3 oz dried mushrooms (such as shitake, oyster, etc.), hydrated and finely chopped (see note)
- 3 T chili powder
- 1.5 T Mexican oregano
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cumin
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 T agave
- 3/4 cup reserved mushroom stock (see note)
- 2.5 cups water
- salt & pepper
- cilantro or scallions, for serving
In a large saucepan, combine dried chilies, roughly chopped onion and garlic cloves with enough water to cover. Bring to boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a large stock pot or Dutch oven over med-high flame and add olive oil. Add soyrizo (removed from casing) and brown lightly, about 5 minutes. Add celery, finely chopped onion and bell pepper. Salt liberally. Saute until vegetables are crisp-tender, another several minutes. Add diced, hydrated mushrooms, chili powder, oregano, cinnamon, cumin and agave and cook until spices are fragrant. Add potatoes and sundried tomatoes. Toss to combine.
In a food processor, combine hydrated strained chilies, onion and garlic cloves with 1 cup chile cooking liquid. Puree until very smooth.
Add pureed chilies, reserved mushroom stock, bay leaves and 2.5 cups water to veggie mixture. Bring chili to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 1.5-2 hours. Adjust for salt and pepper. Remove bay leaves. Serve topped with cilantro or scallions.