I'm going to be honest; I wasn't excited when I heard "vegetarian chili" announced as the secret dish. I mean, if you're gonna make chili, let's get some meat in the pot, right? Well, I stand corrected. I substituted eggplant and mushrooms, both meaty vegetables, for the beef or lamb I normally would have reached for, and it worked — and I mean really worked. The vegetables held up in texture while truly absorbing the other flavors. Whether it's vegetarian or meat-based, great chili is all about layers of flavor and good texture. I hit the texture point with meaty veggies and layered in flavor with all the same ingredients I add to my meat chilis: chiles, beer, onions and garlic. Call me convinced and converted: Vegetable chili is a winner.
For the cumin-lime yogurt:
Whisk together the yogurt, lime zest, lime juice, and cumin in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours before serving.
For the avocado-shishito relish:1.
In a large bowl, combine the avocado, onion, lime juice, and cilantro in a large bowl. Using a fork, coarsely mash the ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.2.
Heat the oil in a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add the shishitos, season with salt and pepper, and cook until charred on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board, let cool for a few minutes, then finely dice.3.
Gently fold in the diced shishitos into the avocado mixture to combine. The relish can be made up to 4 hours in advance, tightly covered and refrigerated.
For the vegetable chili:1.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Add all of the chile powders, the coriander, and cumin. Cook, stirring constantly, until the spices are fragrant and deepen in color, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the beer and cook until the mixture is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes.2.
Add the tomatoes and their juices and cook until the tomatoes begin to soften and break down, about 15 minutes. Using a potato masher or wooden spoon, coarsely mash the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the oregano. Cook until the sauce starts to thicken, about 20 minutes.3.
While the sauce is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring a few times, until golden brown and their liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a large bowl.4.
Return the skillet to the heat and add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Working in batches, add the eggplant in a single layer, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring a few times, until golden brown and soft, about 10 minutes. Add the eggplant, mushrooms, and black beans to the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Cook for 15 minutes to meld the flavors and thicken the mixture. Stir in the cilantro and scallions and season with the honey, salt and pepper.
Ladle the chili into bowls, top with a dollop of the cumin-lime yogurt and avocado-shishito relish, a sprinkle of the queso blanco and Cotija cheeses, and some tortilla chips, if desired.
Reprinted with permission from Beat Bobby Flay. Copyright © 2021 by Boy Meets Grill, Inc. Photographs copyright © 2021 by Ed Anderson. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
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