Wednesday, January 1, 2014

That Weird Habanero Wine at HEB

Have you seen (or tasted) the habanero-infused wine at HEB?  I tasted it in the store months ago and bought a bottle to cook with, but it wasn't until recently that I figured out how I wanted to use it.

First, the wine:  it's called Cabanero Red, and it tastes like a fairly inexpensive Cabernet-based blend from California, with flavors of ripe currant, herbs, vegetal notes, and some smokiness.  Because the wine is infused with habanero, you get some heat in the back of your throat on the finish.  It's also moderate on tannins, which can increase the perception of spiciness.  I don't find it very spicy, certainly not too spicy to drink, but I have a high tolerance for heat, so your experience may vary.  According to this article, the wine was produced by HEB in an effort to create more wines that pair well with Tex-Mex food, and I think they achieved their goal.  

The wine could certainly be drunk on its own - it's a decent wine - but I think cooking is where it works best.  I was inspired by this recipe from the New York Times to put together an easy crockpot bean dish using Caberno.  Here's what you need:

Easy Crockpot Pinto Beans with Bacon and Cabanero Red
4 15-oz cans of pinto beans, rinsed
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 medium (or 1/2 of a large) onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 cup chopped white mushrooms
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 large sprigs of rosemary
4 strips of bacon, chopped
2 cups Cabanero Red wine
2 teaspoons lime juice

Dump everything into the crockpot except the lime juice.  Stir it and cook it on low for 6 - 8 hours.  When the time is up, fish out the rosemary sprigs, add the lime juice, and add salt and pepper to taste.

The beans come out tasting like wine, but not in an overpowering way, nor are they particularly spicy.  If you want more than just a hint of heat, you may want to add some chile peppers or cayenne.  I always cook with whatever I have on hand at the time, so feel free to increase, decrease, omit, or substitute ingredients with creative abandon.  This is not a fussy recipe.

I think this wine would also work well in a sweet/spicy glaze, maybe for ham.  What do you think - would you drink this wine, and if so with what?  What would you cook with it?

Happy New Year!

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