Sunday, November 22, 2009

Why yes, I DO think I'm the Pope of Chilitown.

Today seemed like a chili kind of day, so I volunteered to make dinner. Ordinarily I'm pretty technical when it comes to cooking, but when it comes to chili I take a page out of Leah's book and sorta go by feel. I have a pretty standard list of ingredients, but I just sort of throw everything in to taste.

Now, with all the garbage that one inevitably eats over the holidays, I've been trying to eat healthier lately (with mixed results at best). Tonight I decided to go with chicken for my chili; it may not be as healthy as vegetarian but it's a step up from the usual pork or beef chili I make.

I figured the chicken would probably be best pulled, but I didn't have a ton of time to slow cook it. That's when inspiration hit me... why not simmer it in beer? I still have some Flossmoor Station Ruby Brown Dunkel left in the kegerator, and I figured a nice malty beer like that would definitely work well with the chili. So I chopped up a red onion and a clove of garlic and sauteed it in a stock pot. Then once they started to caramelize I dumped in a pint of the Dunkel.

Next I chopped a half chicken into pieces and removed the skin. I threw the chicken into the pot, sprinkled some sea salt and pepper on top, and simmered covered for about eight minutes. I then turned the chicken over, added more salt and pepper, and simmered for another eight minutes. At this point I removed the chicken and pulled off all the meat with a pair of forks. Once the chicken meat was pulled into small enough pieces I returned it to the stock pot.

The beer/onion/garlic mixture had reduced to the point that there was very little liquid left so I added another pint of Dunkel. I let the chicken simmer in the mixture for another fifteen minutes. After that I did my usual chili routine: I first added two cans of diced tomatoes, one can of kidney beans and one can of black beans, all drained. Then I added the following to taste: chili powder, cumin (LOTS of cumin), Mexican oregano, masa (Mexican corn flour), sea salt and a little celery salt.

I simmered all this together for about another half hour and served with freshly diced red onion and shredded white cheddar (and, for me at least, Frank's Red Hot). The result? In a word: awesome. The chicken was really, really flavorful. I like to think the beer had a lot to do with that. The spices blended well, though I was a little heavy-handed with the oregano and a little light on the garlic. And obviously a bowl of my chili and a pint of the Flossmoor Station Dunkel made an excellent pairing. Overall, this was definitely a keeper.

You know, it's funny. For the copious amounts of beer we have on hand at any given time, we rarely cook with beer. I guess I can credit a.) the incredible brewer's dinner at Rock Bottom Chicago that we attended last month, and b.) the most recent Drinking & Writing Radio Show in which Steve Mosqueda talked with chef Chris McCoy and brewmaster Pete Crowley about said brewer's dinner for inspiring me to make my beer chili. As you can see in the picture below, even Jonas liked it!


Blogger Brian said...

Hey Russ, I'd recommend G. Olivers book "The Brewmasters Table". I've never really gotten excited/interested in beer and food pairing before, and kinda picked this book up on a whim when snagging a six pack at Whole Foods a few months back (turned around and there was this little wine and beer book selection..figured what the hell - literally said "wow thats a big book for $20" so I went with it).

Long story short it's really well written, and very informative on brewing history and other cool beery stuff. In other words - it covers beer/food pairings extrememly well, but it was all of the additional content that really made me happy.

Let me know if you want to check it out sometime, could easily bring it to the office one of these days.

6:32 AM, December 09, 2009  

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