Someone — a Texan, naturally — once wrote that beans and tomatoes have no place in a pot of chili. Purist to the core, he promoted the gospel that real Texas chili is about three things: chili peppers, meat and time. He even lorded that position over a colleague who had other ideas of what might go in that pot.
Well, the Texas boy is now a vegetarian and would like to issue the following humble statement: I take it all back.
Other parts of the country have long had their own ideas about chili, naturally, and now that I'm not eating meat I'm decidedly more open to the melting-pot approach. All of a sudden, chili has been freed from the chains of authenticity, and I can think of it in the way most people do: as a really good stew.
It's that mind-set that led me to a recipe in Giada De Laurentiis' new book, Giada's Feel Good Food: My Healthy Recipes and Secrets by Giada De Laurentiis (Clarkson Potter, $32.50) for chili verde, her vegetarian twist on another style traditional to New Mexico. The real thing calls for pork to be braised in Hatch chilies and seasonings; this one combines potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatillos, hominy, fresh and canned chilies and more for a warming winter stew.
Frankly, I thought it needed something, and my decision to add it might strike some as particularly ironic. I opened a can, drained and rinsed the contents, and stirred them into the pot.
White beans. Apologies to my fellow Texans (and New Mexicans), but that made it perfect.
This meatless take on New Mexican pork chili uses hominy, two kinds of potatoes, two forms of chilies and beans for a hearty, warming stew with tons of flavor and texture. Chili verde
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large poblano chili peppers; 1 seeded and diced, 1 seeded and cut into 4 equal strips
8 ounces sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 ounces Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
4 large tomatillos, husked, rinsed, cored and chopped
4 large cloves garlic, smashed, then chopped
1 can (7 ounces) mild diced green chilies (may substitute hot chilies)
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup no-salt-added vegetable broth
2 cans (30 ounces total) hominy, with juices
1 can (14 or 15 ounces) no-salt-added white cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add poblanos (diced and strips), sweet potato and Yukon Gold potato, onion, tomatillos and garlic, stirring to coat. Cover and cook until onion is tender, about 8 minutes.
Spoon diced green chilies into a mini-food processor or blender, along with the 4 poblano strips from the pot. Purée until smooth, then pour into pot.
Stir in flour, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper, then add broth, hominy and juices, and the beans, stirring to incorporate. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook until potatoes are tender and chili has thickened, 10 to 20 minutes. Taste; add salt as needed.
Serve hot. Makes 6 servings (about 11/2 cups each).
Adapted from Giada's Feel Good Food: My Healthy Recipes and Secrets by Giada De Laurentiis
Nutrition information per serving: 300 calories, 8 g. protein, 53 g. carbohydrates, 7 g. fat, 0 mg. cholesterol, 800 mg. sodium, 8 g. sugar.