Now that the holidays are a distant memory and Randy and I have conquered a miserable cold/flu/cough, I am finally back in the kitchen.
While in Virginia for the holidays, I got a hankering to visit the Hard Time Café and enjoy a dish of their delicious Cincinnati Chili. Unfortunately, because of time constraints, it was not to be.
One day I started some research on the computer for a good Cincinnati Chili recipe. I started by looking for the Hard Times recipe but the one I found did not list all the ingredients instead listing their package of prepared mix. I wanted to know what the ingredients were and how much to use.
So, I continued my research and came upon many recipes, some claiming to be the ‘authentic recipe’ and many recipes with slight variations. Some used hamburger meat, some used beef chunks. While all the recipes called for cinnamon the other spices varied a little. Some recipes called for the meat to be sautéed and other called for the meat to be covered in water and then left to stand overnight. It was hard to choose.
I eventually chose the one from What’s Cooking America and decided this was the one. One reason I chose this recipe is that I had all the ingredients already in my pantry, or so I thought. I already had the meat in the pan when I realized I did not have one of the main ingredients, cinnamon. YIKES! I called my next store neighbor, Sandy, and she came to my rescue with a jar of cinnamon saving the day. The second reason, I loved reading the history that came along with the recipe.
1 large onion, chopped
1 pound extra-lean ground beef (hamburger)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon red (cayenne pepper)
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa or ½ ounce grated unsweetened
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
½ cup water
1 (16-ounce) package uncooked dried spaghetti pasta
In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, sauté onion, ground beef, garlic, and chili powder until ground beef is slightly cooked.
Add allspice, cinnamon, cumin, and cayenne pepper, salt, unsweetened cocoa or chocolate, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, and water. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, 1 hour 30 minutes. Remove from heat.
Cook spaghetti according to package directions and transfer onto individual serving plates (small oval plates are traditional).
Ladle Cincinnati Chili mixture over the cooked spaghetti and serve with toppings of your choice.
Two-way: Chili served on spaghetti
Three-way: Additionally topped with shredded Cheddar cheese
Four-way: Additionally topped with chopped onions
Five-way: Additionally topped with kidney beans
This recipe was so easy to prepare and the end result was delicious with a rich hardy flavor, a bit of a kick and the cinnamon was wonderful.
As the chili was cooking, the aroma brought Randy into the kitchen and he spent a few minutes sharing his experiences with Cincinnati Chili.
“I had Cincinnati Chili at the original Hard Times Café in Alexandria, Virginia when I worked there in the 60’s,” Randy explained.
Randy said that during his career he traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio for work and went to a Skyline Chili restaurant there or just across the river in Covington, Kentucky.
After that first visit Randy said, “I used to go there each time I was there on business. The taste was so different from other chilis and was great over the spaghetti and smothered in cheese”. With what can only be described as a reaction these pleasant memories and, the wonderful aroma that was filling the kitchen, he exclaimed, “YUM!”
The last time Randy remembered having Cincinnati Chili was the time he took me to the Hard Time Café near his home in Springfield, Virginia when we first started dating. I remember that evening too and remembered how much I loved the chili.
I sent over a portion of the chili to my two favorite taste testers, Bob and Sandy.
A few days later I received an email from Sandy saying, “Mary, I can’t believe how lucky we are to live next door to you when you take a notion to “cook something different”. This chili was so different, so flavorful and so wonderful. WOW! Kind of makes me wish we lived in Cincinnati…Not!”
Before sending over some for Bob and Sandy, I reserved just a little chili to use for a hot dog dinner the next evening.
I eventually asked Randy what he thought of the two chili dinners.
“I thought your experiment with making Cincinnati chili was a wonderful success. The taste was quite similar and I really enjoyed it,” he said.
“The chili dogs were tasty. I think the chili sitting overnight made it a bit spicier and complemented the hot dog quite well. I couldn’t help but wonder what the chili would taste like on one of the German sausage dogs we had on the Oasis of the Seas at the new Dawg House. I would like to have that again!!!!!”
As for me, I loved the chili both ways too. I have to say though, I remember the chili being a little looser and so I will try to replicate the original Skyline chili in the next few weeks.
Until then, I am happy and content being back in the kitchen.