Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Cinco De Awesome!

By B.E. Earl

Hola, ¡cabritos! As you may (or may not) know by now, I have a fondness for the holidays. Not so much Christmas, Independence Day or Thanksgiving Day, but the holidays that are a bit more fun and have a whole lot more to do with drinking. I’ve already posted about Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day, so I thought it would be fun to muse on the fun that is Cinco de Mayo.

First off, some history. The 5th of May is not Mexican Independence Day, as many people here in the US believe. Mexico declared its’ independence from Spain on September 15th of 1810. May 5th celebrates the victory of the Mexican army over the French (and certain Mexican traitors) on the morning of May 5th, 1862. You see, the French had come to Mexico along with English and Spanish troops to collect on certain debts from the Mexican government. England and Spain soon made deals and left. The French, however, decided to stick around and take over Mexico while the United States was in the midst of a Civil War. 4,000 loyal Mexican soldiers decided otherwise and trounced the French Foreign Legion. Some even believe that this battle assisted the Union in beating the Confederates in our own Civil War since Napoleon III was unable to supply the confederate rebels for the better part of the next year. Good stuff!
What does this have to do with my enjoyment of Cinco de Mayo? Nada! It’s all about tequila and chili for me! So, I’ve decided to give you my top five list of tequilas and my personal recipe for kick-ass chili. Let’s start with tequila shall we.

Tequila has become very popular here in the States over the past 10-15 years. So much so that there are now bars and restaurants that specialize in offering anywhere from 30-100 different types of tequila. Those places are awesome! Tequila is made from fermenting and distilling the sap of the blue agave plant (a succulent, not a cactus). You may have heard that tequila is a type of mezcal, which is true. All tequilas are a form of mezcal, but not all mezcals are tequilas. Got it? Alright, never mind. I could talk for hours about tequila, but I won’t bore you with the details. On to the list:

5. Cazadores (Reposado) – This unassuming bottle with the stag head label is just one fantastic tequila! Kentucky oak barrels are used to age the tequila giving it its’ rich, golden color. Drink it neat or on the rocks. Yummy!

4. Sauza Tres Generaciones (Anejo) – Featured prominently in Kill Bill 2, this simple, underpriced anejo is aged upwards of six years in small oak barrels. Very clean and smooth. My favorite to drink on the rocks with a twist of lime. Wanna have me some right now!

3. Don Eduardo (Silver) – Awesomely harsh tequila taste, and I mean that as a compliment. Maybe even a bit peppery, to me at least. Don Eduardo also makes a fine Anejo, but this is my favorite non-aged tequila around. Great as a shot, on the rocks or in a fantastic margarita!

2. Corazon (Reposado) – What a great bottle, and the tequila in it doesn’t disappoint. Aged in Canadian oak barrels, this is one damn fine sipping tequila. It also comes in a Silver and Anejo, but I like the taste of the Reposado the best.

1. Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia (Anejo) – I almost left this one off the list because it is so aged, so smooth that it almost doesn’t taste like tequila at all. Drink this one in a warm snifter and enjoy with your best friends. It’s like a little bit of heaven right there in a bottle.

I could have gone on and on about tequila, but I wanted to quickly get to my recipe for chili, so here goes:

Ingredients
1 ½ pounds ground sirloin
1 pound ground Italian sausage (sweet or hot)
1 large can peeled Italian tomatoes (not sure of the size, but the big can)
1 small can tomato paste (not sure of the size, but the smallest one)
1 bottle beer (user’s choice)
2-3 red, orange or yellow peppers diced (I like to mix it up for the colors)
2 green peppers diced
2 large onions diced
6 celery stalks diced
I large handful of jalepeno or similarly spicy peppers seeded and diced.
2 ½ tblspns ground chili powder
1 tblspn ground cayenne pepper powder
1 tblspn ground cumin
1 tblspn salt

- Add tomatoes (you can slice them up if you prefer, but include all the juice in the can), tomato paste, beer and spices to large pot on low-medium heat.

- Brown beef and sausage in large pan. Drain and add to pot.

- Sauté onions, celery and peppers in a little vegetable oil until onions are a little translucent. Add to pot.

- Bring to a slow boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 4-5 hours (or until the tomatoes break down) covered, stirring occasionally.

- Serve with sour cream, grated cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, tortilla chips and hot sauce for an additional kick.

As you can see, I do not put beans in my chili. I prefer just the veggies and the meat, but feel free to add some small red or black beans to the mix. Do so according to the directions on the bean packet, but then it won’t be MY chili recipe, now will it?

Enjoy Cinco de Mayo everyone!

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