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~ Cincinnati Chili: My Holiday Bowl Game Tradition ~

IMG_7715If you're a football fan, 'tis the season of college bowl games and professional playoffs.  If you're like me, planning a tailgate party during the holiday season means I get a break from cooking festive food to prepare casual football fare.  This is a welcome change, but:  my schedule is tight right now and I don't have extra time for planning and details. Years ago, I came up with a way to take the pressure off.  I decided to serve a one-dish menu: a "party in one bowl":  Cincinnati Chili.

Cincy Chili:  My holiday bowl game day tradition since 1981.

180px-Cincinnati-skyline-chili-exteriorI have no allegiances to Cincinnati or Cincinnati football.  In fact, I have never even been to Cincinnati. But, back in 1980, for about three months, Joe was commuting three days a week from State College to Cinncinnati (via Allegheny Airlines).  He kept coming home with tales about the great chili they served in Cincy.  Finally, at my behest, he brought a bowl home in his briefcase.  It was from a place named Skyline Chili.   It was so decidedly different and delicious from any Texas "bowl of red", I knew I had to come up with a recipe (which I did without the aid of any internet back then). This happened to coincide with the 1981 Super-Bowl, so, I used my guests as guinea pigs.

IMG_7733A bit about Cincinnati Chili:  In 1922, two Northern Greek immigrant brothers, Tom and John Kiradjieff, opened a small Greek restaurant in Cincinnati called "The Empress". The restaurant struggled until they began serving chili made with spices common to their culture, which was ladled over a mound of spaghetti, and called: "spaghetti chili".  They soon began serving it with a variety of toppings, or, "five ways".  When ordering Cincinnati chili, words matter.  Here's is the protocol:

~ chili only ("one-way")

~ a mound of spaghetti topped with chili ("two-way")

~ spaghetti topped with chili and lots of shredded yellow cheese ("three-way")

~ spaghetti, chili, cheese and diced onions ("four-way")

~ spaghetti, chili, cheese, diced onions and separately cooked kidney beans ("five way").

Another popular way to serve it is called the "cheese Coney".  This consists of chili ladled onto a hot dog (in a steamed bun) and topped with cheese (topped with diced onion and/or mustard).

6a0120a8551282970b0133f60f55a4970b-320wiWhile the combination of spaghetti and chili might sound sacrilegious to you, in the world of chili eaters outside of Texas,  the "Queen City" of Cincinnati is the undisputed chili capital of the world.  They have more chili parlors than any other American city, each with an almost cult-like following.  Cincinnati chili has got a finer texture and thinner consistency (but not soupy) than traditional chili.  Kidney beans are never cooked in the chili.  

Purists like me grind our own meat for its preparation, which gives it a very special "to the tooth" texture that you cannot attain with ground meat. The tomato base is flavored with an elusive blend of aromatic spices:  allspice, chili powder, cinnamon, clove, cocoa, cumin, nutmeg and oregano. Just because it contains chocolate, do not be inclined to confuse it with, or try to make it taste like Mexican mole. It's not even close to mole.  Cincy chili is a sport all of its own.

Making real-deal Cincy chili is a sport all of its own.

Like all chili, Cincinnati chili not only tastes better the next day, it can be made several days in advance of serving it, or frozen months in advance.  This is another great reason why this is a great meal to serve for a football party during the hectic holiday season.  My recipe makes 24 cups or 6 quarts.  I like to portion it into 1-quart containers to freeze it.  Each 1-quart container is enough to top 1 1/2 pounds of pasta or 4 servings (6 ounces of pasta per person topped with 1 cup of chili per person).  If portioning for a topping for Cincy Coneys, 1 cup will top 4 hot dogs.

IMG_7619For the meat and vegetable mixture:

1/2  cup  olive oil

6  pounds London broil, no substitutions (Note:  PLEASE do not substitute ground beef.  This  cut of beef elimates almost all greasy fat and gives the chili its signature texture.  It's the difference between ordinary and extraordinary!)

3  pounds chopped onion 

1 1/2  pounds chopped celery

8  large garlic cloves

2  tablespoons sea salt

6a0120a8551282970b0134892df10a970c-320wi~ Step 1.  Trim the London broil of all visible fat and cut the meat into 1" -1 1/2" chunks/cubes.  In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, grind the chunks of London broil, using a series of 30-45 on-off pulses.  My large-capacity food processor accomplishes this in 2, 3-pound batches in less than 2 minutes.  The number of batches and pulses will be determined by the size of your food processor.

6a0120a8551282970b0134892dfa51970c-320wi~ Step 2.  Coarsely chop the onions into large, 2"+ chunks and pieces. Place them and the garlic cloves in the work bowl of the processor, still fitted with the steel blade.  Using a series of on-off pulses, finely mince the onion.  My processor did all 3 pounds of onion in one batch and 30 on-off pulses.  For this recipe, you want the onion to be as finely minced as possible without pureeing it.

6a0120a8551282970b0133f60f78c2970b-320wi~ Step 3.  Coarsely chop the celery stalks into large, 2"+ pieces and place them in processor fitted with a steel blade.  Using a series of on-off pulses, finely mince the celery.  My processor minced all of the celery in one batch using 20 on-off pulses. For this recipe (just like the processing of the above onion), you want the celery to be minced as finely as possible without pureeing it.  How easy was that.

6a0120a8551282970b0134892e0f50970c-320wi~ Step 4.  Before you process the meat and vegetables, place a 14" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides on the stovetop and add the olive oil. As you process the meat and vegetables, add them to the pan as you work.  Stir to combine.

Note:  If you do not own a pan like this, you can substitute a 12-quart stockpot, but it will take longer, throughout the recipe, for the ingredients to cook as described.

IMG_7633Step 5.  Over medium-high heat, cook the meat mixture, stirring frequently, until the meat has lost all of its red color and is steamed through.  Carefully regulate the heat throughout the cooking process so that at no time, no browning occurs. Continue to cook until almost no moisture/liquid remains in the bottom of the pan, about 1 hour. Note:  Cincinatti chili purists do not brown their meat.

IMG_7645For the tomato base and spices:

1  28-ounce can tomato puree

2  15-ounce cans tomato sauce

1/4  cup cayenne pepper sauce

6  tablespoons Worcestershire 

4  tablespoons chili powder

6  tablespoons cocoa powder

IMG_76441  tablespoon ground cinnamon

1  tablespoon dried oregano

1  tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 teaspoon each:  allspice, cloves, cumin and nutmeg

2  whole bay leaves

IMG_7663 IMG_7649~ Step 6.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the tomato puree, tomato sauce, cayenne pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce and all of the dry ingredients. Add the sauce mixture to the meat mixture.

IMG_7689 IMG_7688~ Step 7. Using a large spoon, thoroughly combine the sauce with the meat.  

Stir in:

1  cup of your favorite beer

Adjust heat to a very gentle simmer.

IMG_7671~ Step 8.  Partially cover and continue to cook, stirring frequently until the chili has reduced slightly and is nicely thickened, about 30-40 minutes.  Turn the heat off, cover the pan completely and allow the chili to steep for 30-40 more minutes (to allow all of the flavors to marry). While the chili is steeping, cook your spaghetti and prep any toppings you intend to use.  Here's how we like ours:

IMG_7768Cincinnati Chili:  My Holiday Bowl Game Tradition:  Recipe yields 6 quarts chili.  Each quart is enough to sauce 1 1/2 pounds of spaghetti or 4 servings (6 ounces of pasta per person topped with 1 cup of chili per person).  Each cup is enough to top 4 hot dogs.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 14" chef's pan w/straight deep sides & lid or 12-quart stockpot w/lid; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b0134892d3b28970c-800wiCook's Note:  Did you know that Texas-style hot dog sauce was invented by Greek immigrants too? Well it was... in Patterson, NJ.  

You can find my recipe for ~ Mel's Texas-Style Chili Sauce & Texas Chili Dogs ~ in Categories 2, 10, 17 or 22.  Enjoy your bowl game.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


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