Photo by Caitlin Abrams
Nothing against traditional chili, but come on—let's leave the ground beef + tomatoes + beans where it belongs: the school cafeteria. Chili is a natural choice for a winter feast (Double it! Triple it! Who cares?). But let’s mix up the meat—or eliminate it altogether. Let’s take the chili road less traveled.
First—your chili with meat: Grand Avenue's St. Paul Meat Shop is one of the best butchers to branch out into uncharted meat waters. Benjamin Roberts, the Meat Shop's cheese/meat monger-in-chief, suggests cotechino, a traditional Italian sausage that has a nice warm spice to it.
Ground beef doesn't really add anything texture-wise to chili," Roberts explains, adding that what he likes most about this sausage is the "wonderful bouncy texture."
"Diced chunks of cotechino would bring a lot of richness to the dish without turning everything to mush," he says. The sausage is traditionally served over lentils, so it's not a stretch to toss it in a pot with beans and tomatoes.
Roberts' next recommendation might seem out there, but trust him: tender, rich duck confit. (Wut?) He suggests topping each confit chili serving with a fried egg.
Next: Chili sans meat. If vegetarian chili makes you think of those weird soy crumbles from the '70s—the veg equivalent to boring ground beef—think again. The brother-sister team behind The Herbivorous Butcher, which just opened its brick-and-mortar store in Northeast Minneapolis, has you covered with all sorts of 100 percent vegan faux meats that cook up and taste like real meat, but not in a weird “textured vegetable protein” way. They recommend their All-American Breakfast Sausage, as well as tempeh—a.k.a. fermented soybeans—if you're looking for that familiar flavor and texture.
Use both in the Herbivorous Butcher's "All the Protein" vegan recipe, a Thai-inspired adventure that’s kinda crazy but super tasty. It will impress all your guests (even the not-so-herbivorous ones).
The Herbivorous Butcher's "All the Protein Thai Chill-E" Vegan Chili
Serves 12; feel free to double or divide recipe in half for bigger/smaller crowds
- 3 c. chopped yellow onions
- 1/2 c. coconut oil
- 4 green onions, diced
- 1 c. chopped carrots
- 3 c. shiitake mushrooms
- 2 serrano peppers, diced (remove some or all seeds based on spice preference)
- 1-2 jalapeño peppers, diced (remove some or all seeds based on spice preference)
- 2 c. tempeh, chopped finely or to your preference
- 2 c. Herbivorous Butcher All-American Breakfast Sausage (chopped finely or to your preference)
- 1 T. crushed dried chiles
- 2 c. tomatoes, chopped
- 1 c. chopped kale
- 2 heads garlic, chopped
- 1/2 T. chopped fresh turmeric
- 1 1/2 T. chopped fresh ginger
- 3/4 T. chopped Thai basil
- 1 c. chopped kidney beans
- 3/4 c. chopped pinto beans
- 3 c. chopped black beans
- 1 c. chopped garbanzo beans
- 1/2 c. tahini
- 1/2 T. crushed red chili flakes
- 1 T. chili oil
- 1/2 T. vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/2 c. chili garlic sauce
- 1-2 cans coconut cream
- 2 T. Braggs Liquid Aminos or soy sauce
- 2 T. vegan red miso
- 2 T. lime juice
- 2 T. lemon juice
- In a large pot over medium or medium-high heat, sauté onion in 1/4 cup coconut oil. After a minute add the white part of the green onions (save the green for garnish) and carrots. Stir.
- After another 2 minutes, add shiitake mushrooms, serranos, jalapeños, tempeh, and Herbivorous Butcher All-American Breakfast Sausage, and stir.
- After another 2 minutes, add remaining coconut oil (you may have to do this sooner if you notice things starting to stick), crushed dried chilies, tomatoes, kale, garlic, turmeric, ginger, and basil, and stir.
- After another 2 minutes, add beans, tahini, and red chili flakes, and stir.
- After another 2 minutes, add chili oil, Worcestershire, salt, chili garlic sauce, and coconut cream. Stir and heat until chili is bubbling.
- Turn down heat so mixture is simmering. Add in liquid aminos or soy sauce and miso and stir well. Simmer on low at least 5 minutes, then add lime and lemon juice and simmer another 5 minutes.
- Garnish with cilantro, lime wedges, and the chopped green part of the green onions. Or go crazy and try wheatgrass, kumquat, or coconut-lemon sorbet.
+Pairings from Surdyk's
We asked Surdyk's to provide their picks for beers you can serve alongside your chili—to toss right into the pot. If you do beer your chili, just add it when you add the other liquids (and adjust those liquids accordingly).
Pairing #1 (for meat-based chilis): Bell's Best Brown Ale
Full flavors of malt and caramel notes harmonize especially well with acidic tomatoes and browned meat.
Pairing #2 (for vegan chili): St. Feuillien Belgian Saison
This traditional farmhouse ale has a distinct terroir flavor that comes from the land in southern Belgium. This Saison pours a golden blonde; it's dry, slightly fruity, grassy, and citrusy, with just a hint of funkiness. The sweet maltiness and body will stand up to the intensity of flavors in this Thai chili.