When my cousin married his Kentucky bride, theirs were not the only lives changed. Traveling to Kentucky opened my eyes to the world of bourbon. On that trip, I learned that bourbon is bourbon when it’s produced in the United States; made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn; and aged in new, charred oak barrels stacked in really cool-looking rick houses.
The blend of art and science in determining the level of char used on the barrels (#1 through #4 with lighter chars showing more fruit and spice, darker chars extracting more vanilla flavors and color) fascinated me as did the rotation of the barrels from one floor of the rick house to another depending on season and temperature. Bourbon distillation seems the ultimate alchemy, with master distillers possessing science smarts as well as a well-honed intuitive sense.
While I still can’t drink it straight, bourbon’s slightly fermented sweet and boozy flavors make it a perfect partner for soda water. It’s amazing in cocktails, too, which I’ve happily researched here and here and here. And let’s not forget the bourbon balls, bourbon chocolate cake, bourbon Brussels sprouts, and bourbon marshmallows. Clearly I have a thing for bourbon.
My enthusiasm for Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail matches that of a wine lover’s enjoyment of Napa Valley. Husband and I hit only a few distilleries while there and promised ourselves that one year we would return in September for Bardstown’s Kentucky Bourbon Festival.
Having just celebrated two decades of marriage, we decided this would be the September to follow through on our promise. Workshop tickets arrived yesterday and we’ll be packing bags soon. It’s time for a food for fun road trip!
Eagerly anticipating all things bourbon, I pulled out the bourbon cookbooks–all purchased on that last trip to Kentucky–and found recipes for chili and cornbread that seemed perfect for an almost-fall evening.
This chili had a fair number of ingredients, though no more than any other chili recipe. The inclusion of chocolate made me happy as did the 2/3 cup bourbon. (In the interest of keeping this recipe kid-friendly, I added the bourbon at the beginning instead of following the original instructions to add it near the end.)
Kentucky Bourbon Chili
loosely based on recipe from The Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook by Albert W. A. Scmid
- 1 pound ground lean beef
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 cup chopped bell peppers (any color)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups cooked kidney beans or 1 (15-ounce) can
- 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 cup beef broth
- 2/3 cup bourbon
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon chili powder or to taste
- 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
- Salt and freshly grated pepper, to taste
In large pot, brown beef, onion, and bell peppers over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook, stirring, 2 minutes or until fragrant. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat; uncover. Simmer 30 minutes or until flavors are blended and vegetables are tender. Adjust seasonings as desired. Makes 6 generous servings.
The corn muffins were gloriously easy and tasty as can be. A corn-based spirit, bourbon seemed a natural fit here and it was. The original recipe called for a teaspoon of lemon zest, but I didn’t dare go there as I suspected that extra flavor wouldn’t work with my kids.
adapted from The Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook by Albert W. A. Scmid
- 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
Heat oven to 425ºF. Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray or line with paper liners.
In large bowl, mix dry ingredients. In separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Gently stir wet ingredients into dry just until mixed. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake 10 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a food for fun post without marshmallows. With a kitchen full of bourbon, I couldn’t help but whip up a batch of boozy ‘mallows. Stirring in a handful of dark chocolate at the end made for pretty swirls and a richer flavor.
Food for fun is off again next week, then, while husband and I hit that Bourbon Fest. While I won’t be posting here until we return, I’ll be keeping deLizous facebook apprised of any and all food and drink discoveries. If you’re not already on board, please do hop on. As always, many thanks to you all for letting me share with you 🙂