Friday, December 11, 2015

Cincinnati Chili: The Best Comfort Food You've Never Heard Of

Cincinnati chili may be my single favorite comfort food. It's rich, filling, easy, and is so, so good when it's cold outside. Or I just want to eat myself stupid. Or it's a day that ends in a 'Y'. Whatever. 

So, you may be asking, what the fuck is Cincinnati chili? Well, my pretty, you asked the right Wikipedia user! Invented in 1922, Cincinnati chili is different from Tex-Mex chili because it includes such additions as cinnamon, unsweetened chocolate (or cocoa powder), and allspice. This chili is also typically less spicy, usually topped with tons of cheddar, and is served over spaghetti. This dish was the creation of Macedonian immigrants whose restaurant in Cincinnati was doing poorly because the mostly Germanic population wasn’t particularly excited to eat Greek-style food. So, in an attempt to try something new, the restaurant owner, Tom Kiradjieff,tried to modify a traditional Middle Eastern stew with ingredients more suited to the American palate. His “spaghetti chili” was born and has been wildly popular in Ohio ever since.

Prep time: 2-3 cocktails

2 TBSP olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 15-ounce cans beans (black, pinto, or red), drained
1 28-ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes
1/3 cup TVP (textured vegetable protein--available at any natural grocer)
1 cup water
2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
1 TBSP white vinegar
1.5 tsp salt
1 TBSP sugar
1.5 TBSP cocoa powder (unsweetened)
A few dashes cayenne
1 TBSP chili powder
1 TBSP ground cumin
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
4 bay leaves
8 ounces dry spaghetti
1 scant cup additional onion, chopped (optional)
Cheddar cheese, grated (as much or little as you want)

In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, heat the oil over medium high heat. When hot, add the large onion and garlic. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the onion becomes a bit transparent—about 5 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients EXCPET the last three (cheese, optional diced onion, and spaghetti). Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Simmer for at least 90 minutes, removing the lid periodically and stirring. This dish should have the consistency somewhere between regular chili and marinara sauce, so add more water as you go, if necessary.

When the chili is about 15 minutes from completion, prepare the spaghetti.

To serve, put the spaghetti on a plate, top with a generous amount of chili, then a big pinch from the additional scant cup of onions (if using), and finish with cheddar cheese. In Cincinnati, they top it with prodigious amounts of cheese—as much as the plate will hold. That might be excessive for some (myself included), so a medium-sized handful may be preferable. 

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