Friday, November 29, 2013

Monte's Bourbon Chili

         This perfect day-after Thanksgiving recipe first made its appearance here last year.  The thermometer has been flirting with very cold temperatures in the East this weekend.  This morning it was 20 degrees. As it looks like it is going to stay cold this weekend, big bowls of chili make all the sense in the world.  This recipe is no all-day affair. You will be in and out of the kitchen in a half hour.  Then the pot sits on the stove for another hour. You can easily double or triple the recipe so you can make a big batch this weekend and then ladle it out all next week.  When I came across a recipe for Bourbon Chili, I was intrigued.  But the original recipe included the cardinal sin that true chili makers just won’t stand for.  The thing was chock-a-block full of beans—back beans and garbanzo beans.  Now if you’ve ever looked at my previous chili recipe, you may remember the phrase “If you know beans about chili, you know chili has no beans.”  So I set out to make a bowl of Bourbon Chili minus the beans.
         One of my favorite vegetarian chilis comes from a place called “The Village Cheese Shop” ( 11 Main St. Southampton NY).  This particular chili is memorable for its large pieces of vegetables in every serving.  Every element is recognizable.  Big chunks of tomatoes and green peppers combined with onions in a very large dice make this chili stand out. So I wanted to do the same with mine.  I also enlarged the number peppers to 4, one of every color—green, red, orange and yellow.  The ‘sleeves’ of 3 bell peppers that seem to be ubiquitous these days were augmented with one big beautiful green pepper.  For the tomatoes, I used canned whole tomatoes that I sliced in half so they retained their shape through the cooking process. Whole canned tomatoes are almost always superior to the cut-up variety as the latter can contain bits and pieces of tomato of unknown origin.  And so aside from giving my Bourbon Chili more chunk, it also makes a better chili.  The beef is present in the recipe but by volume there are far more vegetables.  What the beef does do is carry a lot of bourbon flavor. Now about the bourbon. I don't drink the stuff so it came as quite a surprise when I was handed a pint bottle of Jim Beam that cost about $15.00. Do yourself a favor and  steer clear of any top shelf brands.  Go with one of their lesser cousins.  I can't think that the name brand bourbon adds any more flavor but it sure does add to the cost of this dish. 
         The beef soaks up the bourbon early in the cooking process.  The bourbon adds a smoky, earthy note to the dish.  This is not a burn-the-roof-of-your-mouth- off chili.  While it has great chili flavor, it’s mild enough that even kids would like it.  I served the chili with some warmed tortilla chips and a green salad.  Here’s the recipe:

Recipe for Monte’s Bourbon Chili
Serves 4.
Dice the peppers in 1 inch pieces
except for the Jalapeno which is diced small 
1  lbs. ground beef (80 /20 lean to fat)
1 cup of bourbon
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp dried sage
3 tbsp. olive oil  
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
4 bell peppers – 1 each Red, Green, Yellow and Orange, seeded and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped fine
¼ cup orange juice
½ stick unsalted butter
3 tbsp. Chili powder 
2 tbsp. chipotle chili powder
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 -28 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes and their juice, the tomatoes cut in half.
¼ cup of sour cream
4 ounces of Cheddar, shredded
Warmed Tortilla chips for serving.(Optional)

While the look of the beef lacks appetite appeal,
the smoky rich flavor of the Bourbon adds
to the overall great taste of the chili 
1. In a large pot over medium heat, add beef, ¼ cup of bourbon, half the garlic, the oregano and the sage.  Cook, breaking up the beef with a wooden spoon until the meat is well browned, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef mixture to a plate and set aside.

2. In the same pot over high heat, heat the olive oil.  Add the onions, bell peppers, jalapeno pepper, orange juice, butter and remaining garlic and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add chili powder, chipotle pepper powder, cayenne and salt and cook, stirring the whole time for 1 minute. Add the remaining ¾ cup of bourbon, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the liquid is reduced by half in about 8 minutes.
3. Add tomatoes and the beef mixture and bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat.  If it looks like the mixture is too dry, add up to 1 cup of water.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered for 1 hour. 
4. Divide the chili among bowls and garnish each helping with about 1 tablespoon of cheddar and a dollop of sour cream.  Serve with the warmed tortilla chips.