Here in Boston we got a ton of snow. Schools were closed. Traffic banned for the day. Stores wiped out of all essential food items. (Luckily we had unknowingly stocked up last Saturday and we still have plenty of food leftover.)
Before we knew about the impending blizzard, I decided to make a big batch of chili. Growing up in Ohio we often had this Cincinnati-style chili which you could have served three-way, four-way, or five-way! (Check out Skyline Chili’s menu for an explanation of these “styles,” which basically refer to the toppings.) My mom made it frequently (admittedly with a packet of Skyline seasoning mix) and my sisters and I loved it. Contrary to Texas-style chili or other tomato-bean-based chilis, Cincinnati chili is served over spaghetti noodles and topped with cheese, onions, and beans. It falls somewhere between a traditional “spaghetti and meat sauce,” as many Americans know it, and a traditional chili.
Yes it is unattractive in its natural state, but this chili has the bold flavors of cinnamon and cocoa (though you wouldn’t say it tasted chocolate-y if you tried it) playing along side the usual suspects of chili powder, garlic, and onion. Cook up a big batch of this, boil your choice of noodles (we chose medium shells for the way they collect the rich sauce in their cup-like nooks), and eat up. This will keep you warm through the snowstorm and make the house smell divine.
adapted slightly from Causing A Stir (an Ohio-made cookbook)
Now don’t be intimated by the long list of ingredients and the fact that my mom made hers with a packet. If you have all of the ingredients, this chili will be a cinch to make. You simply throw it all in a pot and let it go. What could be simpler than that? I’ve never tried it, but I imagine you could even make it in the slow cooker.
2.5 pounds raw ground beef*
3.5 cups cold water
6 oz. can tomato paste
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1.5 T. vinegar
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T. chili powder
5 bay leaves
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1.5 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1.5 tsp. salt
In a large pot crumble the beef into the water. I find the beef breaks up easiest if you put it under water. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Stir a few times at the beginning to break up the meat. When it comes to a boil, turn down to a simmer, cover, and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove the bay leaves and discard.
When chili is ready, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook your pasta according the directions. Drain and serve topped with chili, shredded cheddar, and chopped onions if desired.
*I try and pick a lower fat percentage for this chili so you don’t end up with a sheen of grease on the top of your pot. I’d recommend 90-93% lean ground beef.
This chili is also often served on hot dogs to make “chili-dogs.”
Eat up and stay warm!