Reader, maybe you’ve taken note before of our propensity to support and be excited by mainstream, non-vegan establishments that make a point to provide vegan-friendly offerings beyond, say, pasta primavera with a side of tap water. For instance, Family Recipe, the cute little modern Japanese spot in the lower east side that sports burdock root rice bowls and gluten-free vegan waffles.
Along the same lines, we also really enjoy absorbing as much as we can from the culinary world at large, vegan or not. We may hold the view that animals are simply not food and that, as a society, we need to move towards a world where they aren’t viewed as such, but we also realize that there’s a rich history of cooking that spans thousands of years and just as many cultures. So we love learning about new, non-vegan dishes that offer an opportunity for a more…moralistic, healthy twist, if you will.
Enter GQ magazine, oddly enough (off-subject, but remember one of our first ever posts, when we wrote a response to Glen O’Brien on the use of leather in 2008? THAT was a long time ago.) Their writers have a rich tradition of appreciating the finer things in life, wearables, libations, and cuisine included. So when contributor, Stan Parish wrote up a piece on a one-pot family meal adapted from a traditional mexican dish that made its way into the kitchens of Osteria Stellina in Point Reyes Station, California, we sat up and took notice. As Parish explains it:
“‘Family meal’ takes place every night in restaurants everywhere—from temples of molecular gastronomy to the shitty grill joint where I cooked in college. It’s a pre-service ritual in which the staff eats a hearty lo-fi supper before the first seating shows up and all hell breaks loose. The dishes are usually simple to make, but they need to satisfy everyone from the pastry chef to the busboy. Put another way, family meal is exactly what you want when you have a crowd to feed. If football season means your house will occasionally be overrun with dudes, you’re looking for a dish that’ll keep people fed without chaining you to the stove for the first half. And by week three, everyone is sick of pizza and wings.”
The original recipe calls for a ton of pork—four pounds to be exact—which you may well be able to replace with some sautéed jackfruit, like we did with our barbecue pulled jackfruit sandwiches, but that’s a LOT of jackfruit, so we opted to go with a crispy sautéed eggplant instead. And we have to say, it works out very, very nicely. We’ve been making the stew for a little over a year now and think it’s a great hearty dish that makes for a nice, easy, vegetable-heavy one-pot meal.
Here’s what you need:
Vegan Chili Verde
• 1 Cup Olive Oil
• 4 Pounds Eggplant, un-peeled and sliced in strips roughly 1″x4″
• 2 Heads Garlic (yes, that’s two whole bulbs), smashed, peeled, and chopped into small chunks
• 1/2 Large Sweet Onion, peeled and diced
• 1 Bunch of Cilantro, washed, stemmed, and lightly chopped
• 3 Limes, sliced
• Salt and Pepper to taste
For the Salsa
• 3 Pounds Tamatillo, husked and quartered
• 2 Fresh Jalapeños, sliced
• 2 Cloves Garlic, smashed, peeled, and chopped into small chunks
• 1/2 Large Sweet Onion, peeled and diced
• 2 Cups Water or Vegetable Broth
In a large stockpot, add the oil, eggplant, and two heads of garlic. It’s a good bit of oil, but you’ll be draining most of that off in a bit, so no worries. You essentially want to crisp up the eggplant and let the oil cook it throughout. You could also do this in the oven in batches laid out on baking sheets for even more crisp and less oil…but that’d likely be more of a winter move given the residual heat. With the original pork this is replacing, you’d be cooking for over an hour, but in this case, you just want the eggplant to start to break down and have the edges and skin crisp a bit—likely cooking for about 30 minutes in total. Once it looks good to you, let it cool a bit and then carefully drain off some of the oil. How much is up to you—you don’t want the meal to taste too oily in the end, but leaving in a little bit of oil around the eggplant will give the end product a nice flavor too, especially with that garlic in there. We tend to get rid of half to three-quarters. After you do that, add your your half-onion and cook for 15 minutes.
While that’s cooking, combine the ingredients for the salsa in a deep bowl and mix thoroughly with a hand mixer until chunky…like salsa. If you’ve never used them before, tomatillos (pictured below, right before being mixed up) are pretty fun. Most of us think of them as tiny, sticky, green little tomatoes, and, while they, like the eggplant, are also members of the nightshade family, they’re actually more closely related to the cape gooseberry and will tend to give you a tangy, tart taste in cooked food and salsas.
After your salsa’s mixed, add it to the eggplant, garlic, onion mixture in the stockpot. Salt and pepper to taste and cook everything for about 90 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and serve with warmed corn tortillas. Or, as above, throw in some pickled red cabbage, sliced radishes, and a heel of bread.