Steph’s Caribbean-Inspired Chili w/ Mango Habanero Salsa & Cilantro-Lime Rice

I know, it’s a mouthful.  But it’s worth it, I promise.  Our neighborhood association has an annual chili cook-off, and I wanted to make a vegetarian chili — and WIN with it.  I had in mind that I wanted something that tasted like seared meat and fruit from the grill, like pork and pineapple.  So this is what I ended up with. It’s not Western Caribbean, for sure, but maybe it approaches Jamaican flavors. It’s an adaptation of a Bobby Flay recipe for jerk chicken, but made into chili and with veggie meat. And personally, I think the flavors really come together well with this application.

Ingredients:
1 tube Gimme Lean beef style
2 large cans of black beans
2# roma tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or two large cans)
3 T. canola oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Spice mix (see below)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Spice mix (adapted from Bobby Flay’s recipe for jerk mix)

2 T. ground ginger
2 T. coriander seeds (ground)
1 T. cayenne pepper
1 T. freshly-ground black pepper
1 T. onion powder
1 T. garlic powder
1 T. dark brown sugar
1 t. dry thyme
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. allspice
1 t. ground cloves
1 t. salt
1/8 t. ground nutmeg

Spice mix may be made ahead — it’s a nice seasoning for other dishes.

Instructions:
Drain and rinse 2 cans black beans, and add them to the crock pot, on low.

In a large saucepan, heat 1 T. canola oil until oil shimmers.  Add the onion, and reduce heat to low.  Cook until onions are translucent. Add the GimmeLean and raise heat to medium, breaking it up as it cooks (it helps if you break it up into a bowl first).  Add 2T of the spice mix and continue stirring until meat is browned. Add tomatoes and 1 T. of the spice mix, stir to incorporate, scraping bottom of pan to remove any bits of the veggie meat.

Turn heat to low, cover and let simmer 10-20 minutes.  Add to crock pot, along with 1T spice mix, about 1c. water and raise heat to high.  Add more spice to taste.

A note about cooking veggie meat: if you don’t have a nonstick pan, add the GimmeLean and walk away from the pan for a few minutes – LET IT STICK, in other words. When you add the tomatoes, also add about 1c. water, and put the lid on. The water and steam will loosen the veggie meat from the pan while it simmers.  When you add to the crock pot, skip the water.

Mango-Habanero Salsa: (adapted from Bobby Flay’s recipe)
1 T. canola oil
1 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
3 medium mangoes or pineapple (whichever is freshest)
1 habanero pepper (use a milder orange or yellow pepper if you prefer — not anything green!!)
1 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
pinch of salt

Roughly chop mangoes, and dice yellow onion.

WHILE WEARING GLOVES, and on a small piece of wax paper, carefully quarter habanero pepper. Seriously, these little peppers pack a ton of punch, so handle them extremely carefully. Be sure to remove all seeds and white ribs from the inside and discard. If you’re concerned about the heat, you can substitute another pepper.  Since the salsa gets blended, though, and the mango base is orange, you’ll want to avoid adding anything green.  The longer the habanero is in the pan, the hotter it’ll be — so taste often and remove it once it’s hot enough.

Heat saucepan with the oil, and add everything at once.  Simmer on low, covered, for about 40 minutes.  Stir periodically to be sure nothing sticks to the bottom.  Remove from heat, remove all pieces of habanero, and blend until smooth (a stick blender is ideal for this). Chill if not serving immediately.

Cilantro-Lime Rice:

3 c. jasmine rice
4 ½ c. water
1 t. lime zest
1-2 T. fresh lime juice
2-3 T. fresh cilantro, finely minced

Cook 3 c. rice with 4 ½ c. water in steamer or on stovetop. While cooking, prep all other ingredients. When rice is finished cooking, fluff and add other ingredients and mix gently.

Serve chili on top of rice, with a drizzle of the mango salsa, a dollop of sour cream, and a sprig of fresh cilantro.

p.s. yes, I won — for spiciest chili!! (2008 DGNA Chili Cook-off)

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