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. 


  1. Monte - How much chipotle pepper powder do you recommend, or would you suggest "to taste"?

    1. Thank you for writing and thank you for pointing out a dreadful omission in the recipe. I have now amended it to read
      2 tbsp. chipotle chili powder. As I am a great lover of chillies, I think your suggestion of 'to taste' is likely a great idea for those among us who are non-heat seekers.

    2. Thanks for the update! I happen to be making the chili right now. When do you add the cooked beef back to the mixture? Thanks!

    3. You should put it in when you add the tomatoes. I can't believe how badly I wrote this recipe. Please forgive me and may I thank you for your help. I have altered the recipe to make up for my omission.

  2. No problem at all! I've tried to write down recipes before, and I've found it to be more of a challenge than I would expect. When you're cooking, you tend to do things automatically so it's easy to forget a step or two. I just really appreciate how quickly you've responded to my questions. Thanks! The chili smells DELICIOUS! Can't wait to taste it.

    1. And I can't wait to hear if you liked it! MM

  3. Wow! The chili was delicious. The bourbon imparted a nice depth of flavor, and I really loved the variety of peppers in the dish. I reduced the amount of chili powder, chipotle pepper powder, and cayenne, to suit my "tender" palate. I served it with homemade cornbread. Mmm-mmm. This one will go in my repeater file. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. So very pleased you liked it! I think it's a winner and now that you've helped me sort out the recipe, everyone will be able to make it perfectly. All best and thank you for taking the time to comment. Monte