13 February, 2010

Smokey Honey Chili

3kg ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 smallish yams, cut into ~5x10x7mm chunks
2 handfuls carrots, peeled and chopped like the yams above
1 large can tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
4 cloves garlic, crushed
75ml whiskey
pinch lapsang souchong
25ml honey

1) Combine onion, garlic, yams, and carrots in large, deep saucepot.
2) Add generous dash of oil, salt, and black pepper.
3) Heat on high until onions are sweaty and garlic is nutty, then add whiskey and 10ml honey.
4) Stir in, continue stirring on high heat until most of alcohol smell is gone (we're after the colloidal flavors of the whiskey to caramelize them in suspension, not the ethanol itself).
5) Stir in ground beef until it is barely done.
6) Add in undrained can of diced tomatoes and tomato paste, stir.
7) Add drained cans of beans, stir.
8) Stir in remaining honey and lapsang souchong*.
9) Add generous cayenne pepper, ancho chili powder and Tabasco, moderate amount more of salt, black pepper, and file powder, and small amount of cloves and cardamom.
10) Reduce heat and let simmer, uncovered, until the protein leaking out of the beans begins to thicken the sauce to your desired consistency.

This was absolutely delicious, and it made enough to feed me for 2-3d. It was at once spicy and savory, but not sweet as one might expect from the ingredients because the low-weight sugars from the honey, cardamom and whiskey caramelized and added depth to the smoke of the lapsang souchong, ancho chili powder and cayenne. There was a faint hint of a mellow, orange sweet echo on the top of the palette, but this was largely obscured by the very well-complexed clay and blue flavors below it.

I set out in inventing this spice combination to get the mild tones of traditional chili while using sweet potatoes as the base. I succeeded on both accounts, I believe, and I really do recommend giving this one a try. I know I will be making it again sometime soon.

*Lapsang souchong is a Chinese tea that's much better at cooking than being drunk. It's a black tea that is dry-roasted over a fire of dry pine needles, and a hot cup of it tastes like literally drinking smoke. So I just added a very small amount this time to get the smokiness without resorting to liquid smoke. The tea leaves steep in the tomato juice, and they're completely edible.

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