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Sunday, September 21, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 57.0° F  Fair
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Holy Mole Seitanic Chile (recipe)

Call me crazy, but I like winter. When I was growing up in the more monoclimatic parts of California, my family used to pile into the car to drive to "the snow." And snow, in my dad's worldview, usually meant chili for dinner, which usually meant lots of beer in the chili. To this day, I can't quite break the positive association between chili and cold weather. And with a proper Wisconsin winter in swing, chili is exactly what my gut wants.

My new favorite chili is one I made up a few months ago for the Alliance for Animals' Chili Vegan Cook-off. My first inclination was to re-create my dad's chili. Dad is a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, though, so I'd have to think outside his recipe to fit the bill for a vegan entry. But I knew that my chili, like his, would have to have lots of beer.

Other chilies that have made an impression on me as an adult use coffee and cocoa. Thinking about chocolate led me to think of mole, a deliciously bitter, sweet, smoky sauce in Mexican cuisine that I decided would hybridize well with my chili concept.

This winter, take the edge off the cold by packing some heat in your fridge with a veganized, mole-inspired chili that would still make Dad proud (this recipe did, actually, tie for the contest's People's Choice award).

Holy Mole Seitanic Chili
Chili for a party; feeds 12-15 people

4 hot chilies (assorted: habaneros, jalapeños, etc.)

5 tomatillos

1 head garlic

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion

4 ounces chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1 large ancho chili

2 ounces unsweetened Ghirardelli chocolate

6 ounces tomato paste

15 ounces crushed tomatoes

2 12-ounce bottles of chocolate stout

8 ounces green pigeon peas

8 ounces Dominican red beans

14 ounces black beans

14 ounces pink beans

14 ounces pinto beans

1 tablespoon fresh oregano

1/2 cup raisins, minced

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons coriander

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

salt to taste

2 8-ounce packages of store-bought or 2 cups homemade seitan, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the tops off of the heads of garlic to expose the tips of the cloves. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of oil over each head and wrap in foil. Place chilies and tomatillos in two separate dry baking pans. Put the pans in the oven with the garlic. Bake the garlic for 40-45 minutes until soft and fragrant. Bake the chilies about 10-15 minutes until blackened. Bake the tomatillos about 25-30 minutes until blackened.

Squeeze out the garlic cloves, mash into a paste and set aside. Mince chilies and dice the tomatillos and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil over medium heat in a large stockpot (the bigger the better, or cut the recipe in half). Add onions and fry until soft and golden, about 15 minutes. Add garlic, stirring about 1-2 minutes. Add chilies, ancho peppers, chipotle peppers (and adobo sauce), and spices and cook an additional 1-2 minutes. Add tomatillos, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and chocolate, stirring frequently and making sure that the chocolate doesn't burn. Continue to stir until the chocolate is melted, about 2-3 minutes. Add beer, beans, seitan and raisins. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially uncovered, for about 45 minutes.

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