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Friday, March 21, 2014

Lentil Chili - A Happy Accident


You know what I love about cooking vs baking? When you really mess something up while you are baking, you are often screwed, requiring the finished dish to be trashed and you waste all that time, energy and food. That reason, alone, is probably why I am more of a cooker than a baker. Well, that and the fact that I don't have much of a sweet tooth which one look at the tags on this blog will indicate.



I am not ashamed to admit that I can be very absent minded. I cut myself a lot, I break glasses all the time and, in fact, we no longer buy nice stemware because I will just break it all. We use these plastic Govino glasses and Shack only breaks out the real wine glasses when we have guests, allowing those guests to drink out of them. I am allowed to drink out of my little turkish tea glasses and actually prefer to drink my reds Italian style in the heavy, short rock glasses that are also on the approved drinking vessel list. Basically, I am treated like a toddler by own family and if I didn't crank out so much tasty food for them, I am pretty sure I would be banned from the knife wrack as well.

So, knowing that, you will understand me when I say that I often screw up my measurements when I am cooking and that is how this chili came about. I needed a lentil recipe for this contest over at Canadian Lentils. Last year I came in second with my parripu and wanted to do something a little traditional this time. What I really wanted to do was to adapt my Red Chili Pork with Beans but changing out the pork for King Oyster Mushrooms and using lentils instead of black beans. Everything was going well until it came time to add in the lentils. The mushrooms were browning up beautifully, the smell was intoxicating and I was on my way to creating the dish I was aiming for.  In my head I knew that 1 cup of dried black beans = 3 cups of cooked beans and I wanted about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of lentils in the finished dish. Remember that I am a toddler. I measure out 3 cups of dried green lentils and threw those in, stirred it all around and then thought

OH MY GOOD LORD- HOW MANY COOKED CUPS OF LENTILS WILL YOU HAVE AFTER YOU ADD THREE CUPS OF DRIED AND HOW MUCH LIQUID IS THIS GOING TO REQUIRE????

Well, unfortunately, 1 cup of dried lentils will give you about 2 1/2 cups of cooked which means I was going to end up with over 7 cups of lentils in this dish and that was unacceptable. The lentil to mushroom ratio was now allll wrong and the chili flavour would be diluted because I was going to have to add some much more liquid to cook the damned things in.

I cooked it for a bit, wondering what to do. Should I just throw it out and start all over again? I tasted it and it was pretty good so I just went to town and treated it like I would treat a pot of regular chili. I added way more stock,  a can of tomatoes, some beer, a bit more chili powder and I thickened it up with some masa harina at the end. Holy crap, it ended up being a really delicious pot of vegetarian chili and I didn't even miss the ground beef. Most importantly, I fed it to both guys and they gobbled it up without even commenting on the lack of meat, which leads me to believe they didn't even know it was meatless.

I still have to make the other dish this week but I am really glad that I didn't just throw the whole thing out because now I have a freezer full of tasty lentil chili.



Lentil Chili

makes approx 5 quarts


Ingredients

1 dried mulato chili1 dried pasilla chili1 dried guajillo chili1 dried ancho chili2 cups water1 heaping tsp smoked paprika1 1/2 tbls cumin1 tsp mexican oregano1 heaping tbls chili powder2 tbls honey1 tbls white balsamic vinegar6 clove garlic, chopped1/2 tsp salt500 grams king oyster mushrooms, chopped in 1/2" dice (you could use any type)203 tbls olive oilkosher salt and freshly ground pepper1 onion, finely diced2 cups green lentils900g vegetable stock (or chicken stock if you are okay with that)2 bay leaves1 473ml (16oz) can pale ale1 28oz can plum tomatoes, crushed between your fingers1/4 cup masa harinajuice of two limes plus more for serving1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped


Directions

Heat a heavy pan (cast iron works great) over medium heat and toast the dried chilis for 2-3 minutes, flipping often and pressing down with a spatula, until nice and fragrant. Take them out of the pan and remove the stems and seeds (discard stems and seeds) and put them in a small pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over med-high heat, let boil for one minute, cover and take off the burner and let them sit for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the chilis from the liquid and chop roughly, reserving the liquid.

I use my bullet but a blender works really well to make the chili paste. Puree the chopped chilis, about 1 1/2 cups of soaking liquid, smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, chili powder, vinegar, honey, garlic and salt until it's smooth and set aside.

Heat a heavy pot with a tbls of oil (at least 5 quart) over med to med high heat to brown the mushrooms in batches, salting and peppering each batch to taste, adding another tbls of oil between batches as needed. When all of the mushrooms are nice and brown, remove them to a bowl and throw in the onion and maybe 1/4 cup of water to stir up the nice fond from the mushrooms and cook for about 3 minutes, until the water is evaporated.

Add the mushrooms, lentils and the chili paste to the pot and stir well for a minute and then add the chicken or vegetable stock, 1 cup of the beer, bay leaves and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat so that you can maintain a gentle simmer while the pot is partially covered and cook for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring from time to time. Mix 1/4 cup of masa harina into the remainder of the beer and stir until there are no lumps and stir that into the chili. Simmer for 5 more minutes, add in the chopped cilantro and lime juice.