Cincinnati Chili

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This is not your usual chili.  For one, it’s served “on top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese”.  This one in the photo is known as a five-way.  

It’s served with the chili or meat sauce, beans, cheese (I used provolone so you can hardly see it in the photo) and chopped raw onions over spaghetti noodles.  It’s a fantastic combination.

Another thing that makes this chili different are the spices for flavoring, including:  cinnamon, allspice and even cocoa powder….not your usual chili, like I said.

I found this recipe in Jeff Smith’s “The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American” years ago and have made it several times.  Like most of my regular recipes, it’s evolved from the original with the changes I’ve introduced.

My cooking skills were unexpectedly put to the test when I cooked this for an office get-together, not realizing one of my co-workers was originally from Cincinnati.  He recognized the smells as I was getting it ready for serving.  I knew he was skeptical at first, but I also saw his eyes light up on his first bite. And then all he said was my chili was “not bad” which, according to him, was an observation that was “not bad at all”.

Apparently, he’d tried several chilis puporting to be Cincinnati-style, which totally unimpressed him.  He even said some of the others he’s tried were downright bad and not at all like the original.  To make me feel better, he said this was not an easy dish to do if you were NOT from Cincinnati and mine was the closest one to the original he’s had – outside of Cincinnati, of course.

A couple of weeks later, he generously brings me a can of Skyline Chili, which his father ships him regularly. “So you know what the REAL Cincinnati Chili is supposed to taste,” he tells me. 

My officemate worked at the original Skyline when he was a kid and let me in on some secrets on how to cook this famous chili.  Before you know it, he was telling me about another Cincy favorite, goetta, which he said I should try cooking next time. I have yet to do that.

The closest I’ve come to Cincinnati, Ohio was to cross the Ohio River somewhere in Indiana when Spouse and I missed our turn on the way from Colorado to Orlando, Florida.  I hope to make it to Cincinnati someday and try the real thing.  For now, this will do for me…

Cincinnati Chili

2 tbsps. vegetable oil

1 lb. ground pork

1 lb. ground beef

4 onions, chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp. whole cumin seeds (A MUST)

4 -6 tbsps. hot chili powder

3 whole bay leaves

2 tsps. cinnamon

2 tsps. allspice

2 tsps. Tabasco

4 tbsps. cocoa powder

2 tbsps. Worcestershire sauce

4 tbsps. white vinegar

1 28-oz. can pureed tomatoes

2 tbsps. tomato paste

1 tbsp. oregano

2 lbs. kidney beans, soaked and cooked

salt to taste

Heat a large heavy stockpot and add the oil.  Saute the meats, onion, garlic, cumin seeds, chili powder adn bay leaves until the meat is browned.  Drain the fat and discard.  Add the remaining ingredients, including the beans and bring to a simmer.

Cook, covered for 1-1/2 hours.  Make sure you have enough water in the pot.

TIP:  What you’re looking for is a meat sauce that’s been cooked down to a fine consistency, not an overly thick sauce.  The color should be more red than brown, and the cumin will give it a very Southwest flavor.

To serve, pile spaghetti noodles on a plate, top with the meat sauce, then the beans, cheddar cheese (or any cheese of your choice) and some chopped raw onions.Very good with beer, preferably the Colorado brew, Fat Tire Amber Ale.

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2 Replies to “Cincinnati Chili”

  1. I’m a displace Ohioan so very familiar with Cinci Chili and make it at home now since I can’t get it where I am. The absolute best way to make sure the meat is fine enough and not in clumps is to cook the raw meat in tomato juice. It’s guaranteed to be the correct consistency if you do that. If you actually brown it, it will not be right. So I leave out the oil. I also don’t put onion in the sauce but on top of the finished product.

  2. Oh, and the beans don’t go in the chili, either. They go on top when served just like the onion.

    I don’t mean to sound like a purist on this because I’m not. LOL I actually top mine with finely shredded cheddar and onions, but I leave off the beans and add diced tomatoes, sliced olives, and sour cream. Then splash with a few shakes of Frank’s Red Hot. :09

    Good stuff.

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