Friday, January 21, 2011

Is Emeril's Vegetarian Chili Any Good?

We attempted to make Emeril Lagasse's Vegetarian Chili last week. The full recipe can be found on The Food Network under the title Vegetarian Chili Recipe:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
1 cup chopped red bell peppers
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 to 3 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and minced, depending upon taste
1 medium zucchini, stem ends trimmed and cut into small dice
2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
1 1/2 pounds portobello mushrooms (about 5 large), stemmed, wiped clean and cubed
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespooon ground cumin
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 cups cooked black beans, or canned beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup vegetable stock, or water
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Cooked brown rice, accompaniment
Sour cream or strained plain yogurt, garnish
Diced avocado, garnish
Essence, recipe follows, garnish
Chopped green onions, garnish 
In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, and serrano peppers, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the zucchini, corn, and mushrooms, and cook, stirring, until soft and the vegetables give off their liquid and start to brown around the edges, about 6 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, salt and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and stir well. Add the beans, tomato sauce, and vegetable stock, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro. Adjust the seasoning, to taste.

To serve, place 1/4 cup of brown rice in the bottom of each bowl. Ladle the chili into the bowls over the rice. Top each serving with a dollop of sour cream and spoonful of avocado. Sprinkle with Essence and green onions and serve.

So, a few notes about our concoction. First, we could not find any zucchini in our local market, so we substituted in yellow squash. We did find some pepper jack cheese though! Yum! Anyway, we also omitted the garnish. The most important distinction though may have been that we used water instead of vegetable broth.

The recipe estimates prep time of 25 minutes and cook time of 30 minutes, serving 6 to 8. Our experience was more like prep time of an hour, cook time of 30 minutes, and servings of at least 8, but maybe as much as 12 (we're still eating leftovers!). Admittedly, we are slow preppers but there are a lot of individual ingredients to wash, clean, and then chop up so the time adds up quickly. But, there were two of us working on this so you would think it would be faster, right?

After cooking the chili, we dug in. While the chili was highly edible, it was somewhat lacking in that "oomph" punch we were expecting. That may have been our fault in how much we added as far as spices, so perhaps err on the side of more rather than less if you give this a shot. Oh, and I think we definitely should have used vegetable broth. The chili was just too.... soupy for my tastes as I was expecting a thicker product. Oh well, it's still edible which is the very low bar I set for myself, and tasty - I think the main downer is that it wasn't very "chili" like. But hey, it's great as a chunky soup!

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