December 14, 2010

Cincinnati-Style Chili

The most recent chili I made was my white chili a little while back.  I was in a chili mood again this past weekend, and decided to go with something different:  a Cincinnati-style chili. 

Cincinnati chili has a distinct blend of flavors not much like what comes to mind when most people in the US think about chili.  Cincinnati chili tends to include spices not usually found in chili, including nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon.  It also tends to have a fair bit of bite due to ample amounts of chili powder, usually backed up by cayenne or hot sauce (or both), but one of the more unusual things about it is the use of either cocoa powder or unsweetened baking chocolate.  It also tends to be served either atop hot dogs or, more typically, atop spaghetti, and is often topped by cheddar cheese, kidney beans and/or chopped onions.

I decided to serve it up both on hot dogs and atop pasta, but I decided to make rotini in place of spaghetti.   This chili has a savory, complex flavor that takes a moment to get used to, but it was great on top of some Nathan's hot dogs and on top of the pasta, and once you get accustomed to the unusual blend of flavors, it's hard to not just keep dishing up servings.

This is a great recipe to make - and eat - on a cold day, and since we'll be having a fair number of those coming up, it's a good time to make up a batch and see for yourself.

Cincinnati-Style Chili

2       pounds 90% lean ground beef
1       large onion, chopped fine
3       teaspoons minced garlic
3       teaspoons chili powder
2       teaspoons ground cinnamon
2       teaspoons ground cumin
2       teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
1       teaspoon ground allspice
3/4    teaspoon salt
1/2    teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/2    teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
1/4    teaspoon cayenne pepper
1       15-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1       cup water
2       teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2       teaspoons light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2    ounce unsweetened baking chocolate, grated
1       can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1       pound spaghetti (or other pasta)
         shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, brown the beef.  When the beef is about halfway browned, stir in the onion.  Cook until the beef is completely browned and the onion softened.  Drain off excess fat.

Clear a space in the middle of the pan and add the garlic, chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, paprika, allspice, salt, black pepper, nutmeg and cayenne.  Stir the seasonings together and cook 1 minute, then stir into the meat and onions.  Add tomatoes, water, vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire and chocolate and bring to the boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, 45 minutes.  Uncover, stir in the beans and cook uncovered 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit uncovered 30 minutes to let the flavors blend, or cover and refrigerate overnight. 

Prepare pasta al dente and drain.  Reheat the chili while preparing the pasta.  Serve atop the cooked pasta and top with cheddar cheese to taste.

1.  Beans are traditionally not a part of Cincinnati chili, though they are sometimes served atop it.  For a more traditional version, take that route rather than adding the beans into the chili. 

2.  Traditionally, Cincinnati chili is always served either over spaghetti or on hot dogs, but you can use types of pasta other than spaghetti if you like.

3.  You can reduce the amount of cayenne if you prefer your chili less spicy, or add a bit more, or a dash or two of hot sauce before serving, if you'd like a bit more  heat.

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