Saturday, December 16, 2017

Cincinnati Chili

Back in the late 80's and early 90's, I handled the advertising account for Valvoline. Their headquarters was in one of the most beautiful towns I have ever visited: Lexington, Kentucky. But in order to get to Lexington, you had to fly through Cincinnati. Since the little commuter planes that flew into Lexington were kind of few and far between, I was forced to spend a lot of time in the Cincinnati airport.

It's in the Cincinnati airport that I discovered one of the quirkiest regional mash-ups in cuisine. Their regional specialty was Cincinnati Chili....a mix of chili and buttered spaghetti noodles. I always ordered what was called 4-Way Cincinnati Chili: spaghetti, chili, onions and cheese. They had a 5-Way, but not being a bean fan, I never ordered it.

The chili is not really a Tex-Mex type of chili. Rather it has a distinct flavor and bit of sweetness to it, thanks in part to brown sugar and cinnamon. But it is incredibly delicious and once you have it, I can guarantee that you will be making this dish at least a couple of times per month.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped fine
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups tomato sauce
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef

1 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons melted butter

1 yellow onion, chopped fine
16 ounces shredded cheddar cheese


  1. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook onions until soft and browned around edges, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, oregano, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and allspice and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in chicken broth, tomato sauce, vinegar, and 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 to 20 minutes. 
  3. While chili is simmering, cook spaghetti to al dente and when done, toss with butter.
  4. Season chili with salt. Serve with spaghetti noodles on the bottom, topped with chili, onions and cheese.

Pairing: If you insist on drinking red wine with this, I would recommend a Malbec from Argentina. But when it comes to chili, an ice cold beer is a match made in heaven. Make mine a Pacifico.

Me and Goldie, 1956

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