Every Chili recipe seems to be always under scrutiny. Texas chili should never have beans. Chili is typically an Early American fare, not Mexican or South American. Whatever you call it, a nice hot bowl of spicy chili always makes you feel good. I did however discover a recent little secret that turned ordinary chili into something special and it all starts with the heat. I usually grab for the chili powder which is by itself a blend of ground chili peppers, cumin, garlic powder and whatever ingredients someone decided to grind up. Switching to a homemade chili paste from dried chilies will bring your chili to a different level. Even better, half way through making the paste you have the makings for a great hot sauce so you can get both done in nearly the same time.
There are countless varieties of dried chili that you can buy, all with varying degrees of heat. I prefer a Poblano because it has great smokey flavor and mild heat. You can always add more heat but taking it away can be a challenge. If making this for friends or family it's always better to be cautious than have a chili way too spicy that nobody dares to eat.
Making paste from dried chilies is really easy. Cut the stems off your dried chili (about 6 if using a large chili like pabano or hatch) and then with scissors cut down the side. Open them up and remove the seeds. (You can keep some seeds for heat but you want to remove MOST). Now bring the chilies to a boil in 2 Cups water. Cover and let sit off heat for about 10 minutes. The chilis should now be pliable like soft leather. Place these into a blender or Vitamix along with 1 pint of the water. Add 1 tsp. Cumin and 1 tsp salt. Puree until very smooth. Now you have a great paste to use in your favorite chili recipe instead of powder. It really does make a difference.
**To Make Hot sauce, blend the drained chili with cider vinegar and salt to taste. This will keep for some time in the refrigerator.
To make MY Vegan Chili
1 Cup Chili puree
2 Pkg. Cubed Seitan pieces
1 28 oz can + 1 12 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 Can Kidney Beans
1 Can corn
1 large onion diced
2 stalks celery diced
2 Green Peppers chopped
1 TBSP dried oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste
3 Cloves diced garlic
dash of liquid smoke
Saute the onions and celery in a large stock pot or dutch oven until onions are translucent. Add the peppers and garlic and saute another 2 minutes. Add the seitan cubes and coat well in onion mix.
Add the chili paste and mix well. Add remaining ingredients except the corn and bring to a light boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook about 1 hour. If you have time, this can be simmered for up to 2 hours. At this point your house will smell amazing and the mailman will drool when he delivers the mail. Add the corn during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
If you bought a large bag of dried chili you can pre-make the paste and freeze it or just make it on the day of the chili. I now plan on having them on hand at all times. They don't go bad so why not buy them ahead of time and experiment with different kinds.