Behold: I am a devious vegetarian genius!
Continuing down the road to duping my meat-worshiping husband into becoming a vegetarian, I took a brilliant detour that led me to BoozeTown. As you may have figured out by now, I will gladly exploit John’s weaknesses in order to create a veg meal that suppresses his urge to make a face, is packed with protein and healthy ingredients, and that also helps him forget about his “meat deprivation.” That means that I have to chef up foods that are so delicious and satisfying that they blow his mind. With goals so lofty, can you blame me for playing dirty? I think not.
But I must admit, this stroke of culinary intelligence almost makes me feel like I’m cheating. The secret was to think of what John loves most in this world. The answer: beer. Not just any beer, but super strong IPA. I realized that if I could successfully combine beer with vegan ingredients, I might just create a masterpiece that he’ll not just love, but that he’ll actually ASK me to make him in the future. And thus, the “Drunken Soledad O’Brien Stili” was born.
Like it’s namesake, this Stili has a little bit of everything in it. Think of it as a cross between a chili, a stew and a pub. It’s got a spicy Cuban flair, hearty American microbrew beer, and some potatoes to satisfy John’s Irish stomach. By the way, what the heck ethnicity is Soledad O’Brien? Is she African American? Scottish? Hispanic? Lemurian? All of the above? My guess is that her beauty is in her funky blend, and the same holds true for this rich, delicious, beer-infused stili.
The carnivore verdict? One taste and John’s face lit up. With dancing eyebrows, he exclaimed: “Oh Mah Gawhd. This…is…awesome!” I hope you and your converting carnivore like it, too!
Time to table: about 45 minutes
Serves: 6 hungry people
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped (with seeds)
1.5-2 lbs small, creamy-tasting potatoes, chopped into 1” cubes (such as Yukon Gold creamers or fingerling potatoes) (I used some misshapen Finn potatoes that I grew in our garden)
1 tsp smoked sea salt
freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp high quality chili powder
12 oz. microbrew dark beer (I used 21st Amendment’s “Back in Black IPA,” one of John’s’ faves.)
1 – 15 oz. can stewed tomatoes (I like Muir Glenn since it’s organic and has much more of an authentic tomatoey taste the other canned tomatoes)
3 – 15 oz. cans of beans (I used black beans, pinto and aduki, but really, you can use whichever are your favorites)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tbsp chipotle sauce **
2-3 tbsp maple syrup
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
**(Chipotle sauce is super easy to make. Just buy a can of “chipotle peppers in adobo sauce” – in the Hispanic section of most grocery stores – and just blend the whole thing until it’s smooth. Wow, the flavor is smokey, deep, lush and delicious, and it adds so much to dishes like this. I like to freeze my leftover chipotle sauce in ice cube trays so that it’s easy to use in the future.)
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook for three minutes, stirring frequently. Add red pepper, garlic and jalapeño and stir/cook until the onion is translucent. Add the potatoes and stir/cook for 3 minutes. Add the smoked sea salt, pepper and chili powder and stir well to fully coat ingredients. If you don’t have smoked sea salt, seriously, buy some – it adds so much depth of flavor! I buy mine from SpiceHound.com – I like the alderwood smoked sea salt. Note: it’s important that you add the salt before the beans. Why? Because salt stops beans from cooking and keeps them intact. If you don’t add it, the beans will turn to mush -blahkkk.
Add the beer and stir for a couple of minutes to boil off some of the alcohol. Add the tomatoes, beans and broth. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for about 5 minutes, stirring often to prevent the beans from scorching on the bottom of your pot. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, stirring often. Taste the chili as it cooks and you’ll see that the flavors deepen as it cooks. Once it’s almost ready to serve, add the chipotle and maple syrup, stirring well, and allow to cook for 5 minutes more. Then remove from heat, add cilantro. Serve with a couple of tortilla chips crumbled on top, and of course, beer or a margarita. Enjoy!