Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Test Kitchen: Winter Vegetable Chili Recipe

I have to thank you readers for thinking so much about my health. I mean, how else can I explain the last two selections for my Test Kitchen project, where I cook recipes from the pages of Food and Wine magazine?

Last month you all told me to try a healthy braised swordfish recipe and this month’s winning selection (with 49 percent of the votes) is a vegetarian chili — and I’m not even vegetarian! (I would have easily gone for the maple-chipotle hot wings, with 27 percent, or the Sichuan shrimp with mung noodles, with 23 percent.)

But you’re the boss, so off I went with my shopping list and since this was vegetarian I was able to get most of the fresh ingredients from my farmers market. As always, you can get the complete recipe from Food and Wine’s Web site here.

Here’s how it went when I started cooking in my kitchen:

I started off by prepping the vegetables, which were the stars of this chili. The main vegetables were red bell pepper, parsnips and carrots — all at their peak this season. (Well, except the bell pepper, which you can get all the time.) Other things going into the chili came mostly from the can, including hominy and peeled Italian tomatoes.

In my Dutch oven, I started off by sweating the onions and garlic and then added in the three main vegetables. After they browned a bit, I added in the chili powder and ground cumin (the heat allows the spices to release their flavors). This is also a good time to season the vegetables with some salt.

The recipe said to blend the canned chipotle and the Italian tomatoes into a puree. Because I don’t have a blender, I just dumped everything into a pot and used my handy hand-blender that I use to puree soup. Now, here’s where I have a confession (or more like a complaint against the copy of the Food and Wine recipe). The recipe calls for “1 canned chipotle in adobo, plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce.”

I’ve never used canned chipotle, but was able to find it in the Mexican aisle of my grocery store. Well, in the ingredient list the chipotle was listed after “One 14-ounce can peeled Italian tomatoes.” So in my mind I was thinking “can” and didn’t realize the recipe said “canned” as an adjective and not an object. (Oooh, the editor comes out to play!)

So basically I dumped the entire can of chipotle and the sauce in with the tomatoes. The can was one of those small cans, I think maybe 6 ounces or something like that.

I dumped the puree into the pot along with the hominy and some water. The recipe also says to throw in the kidney beans at this time, but I don’t like to have super soft beans since I just use canned kidney beans, so I added this near the end. I let the pot of chili cook for 20 minutes like the recipe said until the vegetables were tender.

When the chili is done, you can taste it to add more seasoning if needed. But if some of you are familiar with using canned chipotle peppers, then you know that my chili turned out to be a four-alarm fire-hot chili, so even tasting it to see if it needed seasoning was traumatic for me.

Needless to say, I spent the night sweating as I ate just half a bowl of chili, and I cursed Food and Wine for putting on a recipe that was so fiery hot without a warning.

Then a few days later, I checked the recipe again, my mouth still burning mad, and read carefully that I really only needed to add one chipotle pepper from the can and not the entire can. ARGH!!%A@$!!@!

Anywho, here’s how my chili turned out. It looks so harmless in a photo when you can’t taste it. The recipe says to serve it with red onions, sour cream, cilantro and chips. Again, I hate it when they tell you to use so many garnishes. I skipped the red onions because I’m not such a fan of onions, and also the sour cream because of my cholesterol. I ate the chili with sweetened iced tea, which really helped a lot.

My tips and warnings about this recipe:

  1. Read the ingredient list carefully. When they say “canned chipotle” they mean one chipotle from a can, not one entire can. If you like your chili super spicy, then you can add more heat by either adding another chipotle pepper or using more of the adobo sauce from the can.
  2. If you use canned beans like I did, you might want to add them to the pot about 10 minutes before the vegetables are ready so that you don’t have really mushy beans.
  3. This really is a nice base for regular chili with meat, so you can add the ground beef or pork after you sweat the onions and before you add the vegetables.
  4. Read the ingredient list carefully. They really should have written it as “1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce from the can, with 1 tablespoon of sauce.”
Ease of cooking: Other than the prepping of the vegetables and pureeing the tomatoes and chipotle, making chili is super easy since all you really do is sauté your ingredients and then let them simmer together to blend all their flavors together. The steps are fairly simple to follow along and you end up making a nice pot of chili that you can use for lunch and dinner for a few days during the week.

Taste: After I realized my error in reading the poorly written Food and Wine recipe, I made a second pot of the chili. (I ended up using some leftover ground lamb I had in my freezer just because I wanted to use it up.) The overall taste of the chili was better, and not as traumatically hot. In fact, it almost tasted bland. In the end, I did like the vegetable base of this recipe and it was really simple, and the flavors tasted better (like most chili and stews) after it sat in the refrigerator for a day.

Overall Grade: C (I originally was going to give it an F because of the intense heat, but since I was partly to blame for not reading the recipe carefully, I upgraded it because it is simple and tasted OK. Still, I wished the recipe had a section on adjusting the heat to your taste and that it was better written! Points off for that!)

Don’t forget to vote in the poll on the upper right hand column to see which recipe I should be testing next from the March edition of Food and Wine. By then I think my tongue should have healed and I should have my taste buds back!

Previous test kitchens:
Penne Rigate with Spicy Braised Swordfish
Five-spice Glazed Sweet Potatoes and Walnut Toffee
Smoky Shrimp and Chorizo Soup
Rabbit Ragout with Soppressata and Pappardelle


JulieK said...

Crazy-I remember reading someone else made the same mistake with the chiles in a different recipe, so you are not alone. I am happy to hear that I am not the only one who does not own a blender.

Mrs. L said...

Heck with all the healthy food, I'm going to keep voting for the fried stuff or things full of butter!

Hungry Dog said...

Oh, Ben, I am sorry to say, this really made me laugh!I'm sorry your poor mouth suffered so, but it was a funny post to read. And I have done the same thing so many times--misread an ingredient amount and screwed up a recipe, or not read a recipe all the way through and made some crucial error. Sounds like this wasn't really a keeper anyway, though, crazy hotness aside. Oh well, the pictures look nice!

Sean said...

Great to see more guys like us running food blogs.

Keep it up!!!

Anonymous said...

You're funny! Next time, have a glass of milk on hand to put out the fire.

foodhoe said...

You are hilarious Single Guy! Mr. K loves those canned chipotle peppers, so using an ice tray, I place one pepper per cube with adobo sauce, freeze overnight, then put all into a ziplock. That way I can pull just one out whenever I need it. That's also why my freezer is jam packed full of zip lock bags containing, who knows what... anyways, a whole can must have been spicy. I can't imagine!

Kim said...

A whole can?! Yikes.

agent713 said...

Hey! I made chili last night too. I used my mom's recipe though. Less veggies, more meat, same basic priciple...minus any chipotle peppers. Yours was definitely more of an adventure :)

Foodhoe, thanks for the tips on freezing peppers. I'm going to try that.

Mark Scarbrough said...

You are so funny! We sent a bunch of recipes out to testers and had EXACTLY the same problem with "can" v. "canned." One person was really mad that we'd unleashed that chili on her!

That all said, I'd love to see you make it to your own taste with the heat.

Single Guy Ben said...

Foodhoe, that is a good tip about freezing it as cubes. I just put the entire can into a plastic container and put it in the freezer. Now I have to defrost it and freeze them again into cubes because I'm pretty sure I'm not going to use the rest of the can peppers for the next time. I mean, I do like the earthy taste of the chipotle, just as long as it's not burning my tongue.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the chipotle pepper info. I was wondering about the same thing and am glad I found this through Google before dumping in the whole can.