More Adventures in the New Soy Technology

When I was a kid, all the hippies were crazy for soy. It was the new thing. They had discovered tofu and tempeh, and were putting it in everything.

Today, soy is in the culinary dog house. Vegans, yoga students and Birkenstock wearers have moved on to quinoa, textured vegetable protein and nut cutlets. Websites with names like Natural Health Strategies and Hidden Soy decry the dangers of soy, and expose the nefarious secret intentions of the soy industry. All of this just as it seems to me that soy is finally getting its act together!

Michael Portnoy soy bombs Bob Dylan at the 1998 Grammy Awards

Performance artist Michael Portnoy soy bombs Bob Dylan at the 1998 Grammy Awards

It was the Halloween carnival fundraiser last year at my children’s elementary school. I was approached beforehand: Sean, could you make a large pot of chili to sell at the fundraiser?

“Sure,” I said. I make a mean chili.

“Oh, and it has to be vegetarian.”

“Dude!!” I exclaimed (and it wasn’t even a man I was talking to!) After my initial shock and awe wore off, I considered the realities of making a reasonable chili without meat, and decided to take the challenge head on. My goal would not be to present a watery pot full of beans and tomatoes, but rather to create something that was toothsome and satisfying — “meaty,” if you will, without the meat.

I turned to the New Soy Technology.

In the intervening decades since the curious foodstuff “tofu” first registered in my culinary consciousness, they have made great advances in soy. A soy burger or sausage patty, for example, nearly replicates the fatty, juicy pop of the real thing. Surely such technological breakthroughs would allow me to make a chili nearly as deliciously decadent as the real thing. So I set to work.

The appointed day came: the school Halloween carnival. I arrived proudly armed with a large pot of my New Soy Technology chili. And there, bubbling away on a burner, was an even larger pot.

“What’s that!?” I asked.

“Vegetarian chili,” someone at the food booth replied. My jaw dropped to the floor. Why had I been asked to make vegetarian chili when someone else was already making an even larger pot of it!?? Fuming, I lifted the lid off the usurper chili and looked into the pot. There simmering away was a virtual watery cauldron of tomato and beans. It looked more like a sad minestrone than chili. I breathed a sigh of relief. If this was to be an unintentional vegetarian chili cook-off, victory was certain.

I told a few friends waiting in line at the food booth to be sure to specify they wanted my chili. Word soon spread and in no time my pot was gone and latecomers were condemned to a bowl of the tomato water. The New Soy Technology had come through.

Fast forward some eight months, and my friend Mo invites us to her husband Matt’s 50th birthday celebration. “I remember you making a killer vegetarian chili that I wanted to make for the party,” she said, “But I couldn’t find it on your blog.”

I was about to adapt the regular chili recipe on my blog to vegetarian for her, and then I decided it would be easier to just make the chili myself, which had the added advantage of making Mo’s life easier too. Looking at my regular chili recipe and recalling my vegetarian chili from the carnival, I realized they were in fact two very different beasts. So I went shopping and got all the strange ingredients (corn chips, soy chorizo, extra firm tofu, Morning Star Farms vegan “grilled” burger patties, Kraft American cheese, etc.) that make up the New Soy Technology chili and got cooking!

I’m still an advocate of chili with real meat. But if you, like Mo, were looking for a recipe for vegetarian chili, this is about the best you’ll do. While you’ll certainly miss the beefiness,  you may find vegetarians you serve this to wincing in horror at first bite (which is your goal), and protesting, “I thought you said this was vegetarian!!” You’ll simply smile and assure them it is, and reply, “The New Soy Technology.” Enjoy!

*    *    *

New Soy Technology vegetarian chili
serves a small army

1 lb. dried pinto beans, soaked overnight
1 large can tomatoes (1 lb. 12 oz., usually)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
12 oz. soy chorizo
1 large onion
1 lb. super firm tofu, crumbled
12 oz. meatless ground beef
4 soy hamburger patties (about 10 oz.)
6 oz. corn tortilla chips, crumbled
4 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
4 slices American cheese (i.e. Kraft)
salt & pepper to taste

Drain the water from your beans, and add new water at a 3:1 ratio to the beans. Place pot on stove and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Lower heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 60-90 minutes, until half the water has cooked away and the beans are tender. Remove from heat.

In a separate pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add chorizo and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add chopped onion and cook for another 3 minutes, stirring. Add can of tomatoes with liquid, stir and remove from heat. Stir the tomato/chorizo mixture into the pot with the beans, and return to heat on medium. Crumble into the mixture the tofu, meatless ground beef and soy burgers. Stir in crumbled corn chips, chipotle chiles, vinegar and spices. Bring to a simmer and lower temperature to low. If the chili seems too thick, add a couple cups of water. Cover and cook for 30 to 45 minutes on low, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed.

Stir in cheese slices until melted. Season to taste with salt & pepper, and serve.

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. pal-O
    Jun 11, 2013 @ 03:14:45

    That would be great on a Dodger Dog!


  2. Jessamine in PDX
    Jun 11, 2013 @ 03:49:50

    It’s funny — my very carnivorous husband has grown to love the vegan burritos at the taco cart near our house, all because of soy chorizo. I haven’t gone for one yet, but I’d definitely try a bowl full of this!


  3. Mom
    Jun 11, 2013 @ 15:13:07

    Hah! I discovered soy chorizo a while ago but was afraid to mention it to you for fear of scorn. That chili sounds great1


  4. Cate
    Jun 11, 2013 @ 18:32:26

    I’m thoroughly enjoying all of your posts. I don’t know why I didn’t sign up to receive them sooner.
    You can definitely see that you are a poet as well as an artist. Great wonderful writing. Thank you


  5. rachelocal
    Jun 11, 2013 @ 18:39:24

    The secret isn’t the soy; it’s the chipotles and adobo sauce. 😉

    This looks good but can you imagine how good it would be with REAL chorizo.


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