What would a cold snap in Autumn be without a pot of spicy chili simmering on the stove? I ventured from my ground beef chili recipe (which normally includes sweetcorn per my husband's request) to try my cousin Becky's veggie chili recipe.
I knew I had to try it when she said there was Guinness in it, but the fact that she's the Managing Editor at Cook's Illustrated AND on-screen test cook for America's Test Kitchen really swayed me. After talking to her yesterday evening, she's lucky if I don't show up on her doorstep in Massachusetts and beg her to take me to work with her.
Becky grew up watching Julia Child on TV after school with her twin sister, Valerie. After graduating from college, she worked on a securities trading floor in NYC, but when offered a big promotion, she turned it down and went to cooking school. If ever there was a poster child for following your dreams, Becky is it. She's been with Cook's Illustrated for 10 years and even met Julia when she visited the set of America's Test Kitchen, produced by the same people that did The French Chef.
Since trying this chili, I'm not sure if I'll ever go back to my boring old ground beef stand-by. It's superbly seasoned and the addition of cashews at the end makes it so toothsome, I swear you won't miss the meat. The Guinness makes the sauce rich and earthy. In the version I made, I used half light red kidney beans and half cannellini beans, only because that's what I had in the pantry. I've also thought of adding a little pumpkin to this the next time I make it. My mother in-law once served a chili with pumpkin and I think it would make a delicious twist.
One important note- I absolutely adore the smoked cheddar that goes on top of this. Don't be tempted to get a bag of tasteless shredded cheese - you will seriously miss out. I'm a huge believer in the right accompaniments, and this is one that I won't eat chili without again. Using a box grater, I shredded my applewood smoked cheddar from Wisconsin with the paprika rind coming out in flecks of cream with red tips.
Becky's Vegetable Chili with Guinness
Adapted from Grace and Grit by Ken Wilbur
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbsp chili powder (Becky uses Penzeys mail order- it's worth it!)
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 bottle of Guinness
1 x 28 oz can of whole tomatoes
3 x 15 oz cans of red kidney beans (you can substitute light red kidney beans and/or cannellini beans as well)
1 tbsp freshly chopped oregano
3 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
1 cup of chopped cashews, unsalted
smoked cheddar for grating on top
salt to taste
In a dutch oven, saute the onion, celery and green peppers in the olive oil for about 10 minutes until they are softened and slightly browned. Add the garlic, chili powder and cumin and saute for another minute.
Add the Guinness, tomatoes and beans, breaking up the tomatoes as you stir them in. Salt to taste (using kosher salt if possible- about a tbsp to begin with.) Simmer for an hour at least- longer won't hurt.
This is where I think this recipe goes to extraordinary- about 30 minutes before you're ready to serve, add the cashews, oregano and parsley. Simmer away for the last half hour and you're ready to dish it up.
Sprinkle some of the grated smoked cheddar on top and serve with bread (I made mine with cornbread) and a pint of Guinness!
Becky suggests variations including adding some chipotle peppers which are readily available in cans at grocery stores. She also makes this in the slow cooker with dried beans on occasion.