How we came to know Cincinnati Chili
Last summer we went to North and South Carolina and on our way there, we stopped by my brother-in-law’s place in Florence, KY. He lives in Kentucky, but Cincinnati is so close that you can see it from his condo. It was our first time visiting and we were there for only a short time, but he recommended we check out Skyline Chili.
This midwest chain is big all around Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana with some locations in Florida. I’m all up for trying new things, but in the far back of my mind I was wondering what was special about this particular chili. Chili is chili, right?
At Skyline, their chili has unique spices like cinnamon and allspice that change the flavor of your average chili. One of their most famous meals is called the Three Way, spaghetti topped with their famous chili and lots of finely shredded cheddar cheese.
We loved this chili with its unique spices and a week ago I saw that Cook’s Country had a recipe for Cincinnati Chili! Could it be? Could I possibly make my own at home?!? Our homemade version was really, really good. You can taste those earthy spices and there aren’t any hot spices which is perfect for people that don’t like a kick, but serve with your favorite hot sauce, if you like. The chili is also very meaty and makes a great recipe for a crowd. Do try it on top of spaghetti with cheese. It may sound strange, but it is really delicious.
This recipe almost broke me last week. The following is an unappetizing and ridiculous story, but every time I make this chili, I will think of this first experience, so here goes.
I looked at the recipe a week ago and saw that it was very simple and would come together quickly. I had almost all of the ingredients already in my pantry and I was planning on making it on Monday evening after work. As my onions were browning, I started to put the spices in a small white bowl and suddenly I saw…gulp…2 small bugs! I was horrified into stunned silence. I seriously did not know what to do since this had never, ever happened before. I try to be so careful about how long I’ve had my spices.
As my onions turned from brown to black I vented my frustrations to Marc while he was attempting to solve a work problem on his laptop. I finally snapped out of it and decided that the spice culprit must be the allspice. I purchased it about a year ago and I use it sparingly, so I figured, yep, that was it. Monday dinner was ruined. I dumped the bowl of spices in the trash along with any remotely suspect spice in my cabinet and then had to clean burned onions out of my pot for a meal that never was, grrr. Marc noticed my foul mood and told me to take a seat and he would whip up some spaghetti quickly.
The next morning I bought some new oregano and allspice from the grocery store and was ready for round #2. This time, I started with the spices and thank goodness I did, because when I poured out my fancy (not even two months old) ancho chili powder that I purchase from a boutique spice place in my hometown, I saw something. Those somethings were not alive, but I will not expound further as not to gross you out. I couldn’t believe it. I was going to have to go to the grocery store again to buy chili powder. In the end, the dish was worth the trouble because it made for a very tasty Sunday afternoon and now we have a memorable story that we’ll laugh about one day.
Recipe: Cincinnati Chili
Recipe from Cook’s Country
Serves 6 to 8 for just chili, but can serve more on top of spaghetti
1 T. vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T. tomato paste
2 T. chili powder
1 T. dried oregano
1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. salt, plus more to taste
3/4 t. ground black pepper
1/4 t. ground allspice
2 C. low sodium chicken broth
2 C. canned tomato sauce
2 T. cider vinegar
2 t. dark brown sugar
1 1/2 lbs. 85% lean ground beef
1. Heat oil in Dutch oven or heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook onions until soft and brown around edges. Add garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, oregano, cinnamon, salt, pepper and allspice and cook until fragrant., about 1 minute. Stir in chicken broth, tomato sauce, vinegar and brown sugar.
2. Add beef and stir to break up meat. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chili is deep brown and slightly thickened, 15-20 minutes. Add salt to taste and serve. Chili can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen up to 2 months.
Three Way Chili
1 batch of Cincinnati chili-recipe above
1 lb. spaghetti
2 C. cheddar cheese, shredded on the fine side of a box grater
your favorite hot sauce
1. Cook spaghetti al dente while your chili is simmering away.
2. Add a portion of spaghetti to the plate, top with chili and a generous amount of cheese. Add a few shakes of your favorite hot sauce, if desired.