With three and a half years of blogging under my (ever expanding) belt, I've seen pretty much all types of PR pitches and announcements. But it's not everyday the words "Kikko de Mayo" pop up in an e-mail. Intrigued, I clicked on and corresponded . . . and found out that Kikkoman folks are trying to tie-in to the festive Cinco de Mayo with recipes using their product, particularly their new Lime Ponzu sauce, for truly worldly fusion dishes by putting a Japanese spin on Mexican dishes.
And since they offered to host the cookoff (with a $25 giftcard, on top of some Kikkoman product samples -- including a half gallon jug of their lime ponzu!!) I took on the challenge of making a Kikko de Mayo recipe of my own.
I was still running strong in my vegetarian kick from Animal-Free April, so scoured the Web for some no-meat dishes to try. I contemplated the like of seitan tacos or tofu enchiladas, but decided that might be just too gnarly so I went for a dish that's more mainstream meatless to begin with: chili sin carne (literally, peppers without meat!) And while chili is more a Tex-Mex than a straight-up Mexican dish -- I figured if I'm going to be using ponzu for my recipe . . . I really don't think I need to be crossing my T's and dotting my I's for authenticity sakes.
And sure enough, the final result is something special, with a flavor profile of molé-meets-barbecue sauce -- earthy, tart, sweet, smoky and green. And best of all, satisfying without being heavy or greasy since minimal fat is used (and most of that can be easily skimmed off while it's simmering) so definitely a recipe I'll turn to time and again for big gatherings (great on top of fries and a sprinkling of cheese!) or a cooler, stay-at-home night with a hearty chunk of crumbly cornbread.
Worldly Chili Sin Carne (for six to eight servings)
4 16-oz. canned beans* (I used one can each of Black, Pinto, Red Kidney and Great Northern; alternatively, the equivalent in dry beans, soaked overnight or quick-soaked, works too)
2 16-oz. canned diced tomatoes* (or approx. 8 medium fresh tomatoes, diced)
1 6-oz. canned tomato paste*
2 medium yellow/white onions, coarsely chopped
1 bell pepper, coarsely chopped into strips
8 oz. of white button mushrooms, sliced
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup vegetable broth*
3/4 cup brown ale (I used Mammoth's Double Nut Brown)
1/4 cup ponzu (of course, I used Kikkoman's Lime Ponzu)
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
*When buying canned veggies and broth, opt to get low-sodium or no-salt-added versions; not only is better for your sodium intake, it's also infinitely simpler to making something more salty than vice versa.
1. Open the four cans of beans and drain them in a colander, giving them one or two rinses with cold water.
2. While the beans are draining, heat up a large skillet with the vegetable oil and sauté the onions for about three minutes (just when they start becoming translucent), then add mushrooms and peppers and sauté for another 2 minutes, and finally the garlic, and one more minute of sauté
3. Add the sautéed veggies into the slow cooker and pour the brown ale into the skillet for deglazing, using the spatula to help scrape up the caramelized bits of veggies. After a minute or two, pour the mixture into the slow cooker too.
4. Add the drained beans, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, ponzu and vegetable broth to the slow cooker, then top off with maple syrup, cocoa, cayenne, oregano, ginger, cinnamon and cumin.
5. Using a ladle or spatula, give it the mixture a quick-but-gentle stir and turnover to incorporate the ingredients.
6. Turn slow cooker on high for half an hour, afterwards, give it another stir to mix, then set the slow cooker on low and let it simmer for 6-8 hours (I did mine overnight.) This also gives you plenty of time to taste and tweak as needed.
7. Serve and enjoy (or store in fridge for approx. five days) -- on its own, the recipe is vegan, but I prefer adding a little bit of white cheddar for a gooey treat. And as my friends and I discovered last night, it's also muy excellente over In-N-Out's well-done fries.
And if chili sin carne is not necessarily your thing, here are some other easy-to-make omnivorous "Kikko de Mayo" recipes worth looking into.
Now, dare I attempt crafting a tequila cocktail with all that ponzu...?