Back when I was the chef at Lucia's restaurant, making vegetarian chili was a twice a week ritual as it was one of the most popular take-away items served at the deli connected to the restaurant. We served a simple vegetarian chili, filled with all the things you'd expect, and it was good, for vegetarian chili.
This mushroom based version is even better though, and it's a great way to highlight mushrooms as a meat substitute-a pretty common tradition in plenty of places around the world. The flavors of roasted chilis, beans and spices are a great compliment to mushrooms with a hearty texture, like the hen of the woods I use here.
You could use lots of different mushrooms here, but the meaty texture of hen or chicken of the woods are going to be some of the most meaty, so if you have some, I recommend them. Hen of the woods are cultivated around the United States and pretty easy to find at local grocers (Asian markets often have them for cheaper).
I actually used frozen hen of the woods here, and it's a good way to use up cooked, frozen mushrooms or fresh. Id' stay away from using dried mushrooms here as fresh or frozen mushrooms will have more of a tender, meaty bite to them.
Wild Mushroom Chili
- 1 large Red bell pepper
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter coconut oil can make a good substitute, or just cooking oil.
- 8 oz 1 large white onion
- ½ oz garlic cloves (about 3 large)
- 8 oz mushrooms cut into ½ inch pieces preferably hen of the woods or chicken of the woods (fresh or frozen is fine) *see note
- 5-6 dried chilis, such as guajillos, or ¼ cup chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 15 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce This may seem strange but soy helps to add glutamates to the dish that are lost without meat.
- 3 cups mushroom or vegetable stock
- 2.5 cups cooked beans such as black or pinto beans, or 2 15 oz cans
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 dried bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- Pickled diced red onions
- Sour cream, thinned with a splash of heavy cream
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Diced or shredded cheese, such as pepperjack, or another melty cheese like Mexican queso chihuahua
- Roast the pepper over a burner or on the grill until blackened on all sides, then remove to a bowl, cover with cling film and allow to cool. Remove the skin from the pepper, rinsing with a little water to speed the process. Discard the seeds from the pepper, dice the flesh into ½ inch cubes and reserve.
- Toast the chilis on a griddle or in a 325 oven for 5-10 minutes or until crisp, then allow to cool. Break the stems from the dried chilis, remove the seeds and discard, then grind the toasted chilis in a spice grinder and reserve.
- Melt the butter in a 3 qt saucepot.
- Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor, grind the onion and garlic to a fine paste, then transfer to the pot with the butter and cook on medium heat, adding the cumin, chili powder and smoked paprika.
- Add the onion mixture to the pot and cook for ten minutes or so, stirring occasionally. While the onion mixture cooks, puree the tomatoes in the food processor, then add them to the pot, along with the mushrooms and remaining ingredients.
- Allow the chili so simmer for 1 hour, then double check the seasoning for salt, adjust until it tastes good to you, then serve with all your favorite accompaniments.
- Like typical chili, the flavor improves after sitting for a day.