Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


In years past, it was a tradition for me to make homemade chili on football Sunday afternoons. In college, my roommates knew that they didn't have to cook on those days, that I would have dinner taken care of. After Daniel Snyder bought the Redskins, he revealed in an interview that his childhood football tradition was to sit on the floor of his living room and eat chili. So even when I've had disagreements with his football decisions, I've always felt chili kinship with my team's owner.

Yesterday, I decided to try to make vegetarian chili. It's been years since I made chili of any kind. I would start with my mother's recipe, the template I've always gone from. I've made it with ground turkey, ground chicken, chicken breat, and even steak, but never with no meat or fake meat (or, as I like to call it, feat.)

Over the years, I've added a few refinements; a bit of steak sauce for pop and a few teaspoons of sugar to reduce the bitterness of the tomatoes. I've used specialized ingredients that no longer exist; Del Monte Mexican Style stewed tomatoes are much missed. And I like peppers. A lot. But Karen doesn't like food too spicy, so I also wanted to cut down on the bite in favor of flavor.

So I decided that, since this would be an all-new dish, I would write down the amounts and document the process. That seemed like just the kind of thing to put on this silly blog! So here is an illustrated guide to the chili I made today.

(Bear in mind that it is still simmering as I type this; I have not yet tasted this concoction. It may be awful. But it smells great!

Here are the ingredients:
2 1/2 cups of chopped vidalia onion (1 large one)
2 cups of chopped red bell pepper (1 large one)
2 cups of chopped green bell pepper (1 large one)
2 cups of chopped yellow bell pepper (1 large one)
4 cups of diced tomatoes (approximately 3)
15 oz. can of dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
15 oz. can of light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
15 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
12 oz. of corn (frozen)
16 oz. of Yves meatless ground (the feat)
2 tbsps. chili powder
1 tbsp. steak sauce
2 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. crushed garlic
1 tbsp. salt

Look at those gorgeous peppers! And an almost-equally colorful assortment of beans. Here's a chili secret I've learned in recent years. Much of the undesirable gas produced from eating beans actually comes from the juice. So I drain and rinse my beans.

And the other ingredients:

I began by sauteing the onions in a wok with some vegetable oil. Usually, I add the crushed garlic at this point, but today I forgot and added the garlic and salt to the simmering end mixture about half an hour before serving. That's bad.

After the onions have become translucent, add the feat.

Next add the peppers to the wok.

Stir them.

Once the peppers have just begun to change texture, throw the whole thing in a crock pot.

Add the tomatoes, corn, beans, and everything else. Stir.

Steak sauce, which is mostly tomato sauce and vinegar, adds a cool kick that you can't really identify.

It's a good idea to add some of the spices, stir, then add some more, then stir, etc. until it's all in. If your crock pot is anything like mine, you need to stir carefully in order to avoid spreading chili all over the counter and floor.
The sad end result is a LOT of dishes.

Like I said, I forgot to add the garlic and salt until quite late in the game. Also, my old crock pot was not performing up to spec; after 90 minutes it still wasn't hot enough to simmer, so I moved it into a stew pot on the stove top.

Ideally, the chili should simmer for at least an hour, maybe even two or three. Of course, all of my assumptions are based on cooking with meat, which really likes spices to be slowly cooked in. I'm not sure how the soy feat will respond.

Serve with beer (something fairly light and hoppy like a pale ale is my favorite), and optional sour cream, cheddar cheese, and minced uncooked onions! And watch in front of the TV on the living room floor while rooting on the Redskins!

So that's the chili story! I'll let you know how it turns out. And I'm really interested in hearing your recipe suggestions! What should I have added?

EDIT! The chili was delicious! A little cheddar cheese, a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and a 22-10 Redskins victory made for a lovely evening. Karen also made corm bread from scratch and it was a delicious accompaniment.

I have to say that I do prefer meat in my chili, especially some nice lean chicken breast or steak, but this was very good. And it's easy enough to simmer two pots next to each other, one with meat and one with feat.

I'm going to have some more for lunch!

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