Clay's Kitchen : Chili Recipes

Chili Recipes

© Copyright 1995-2017, Clay Irving <>, Manhattan Beach, CA USA

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Cincinnati Chili

Servings: 6 to 8

Cincinnati Chili is one of those improbable recipes, one that "could only happen in America," or some place where immigrants meet immigrants and all lay down their spatulas, have a good taste, and pick them up again, swapping ideas, to create a new dish from the melting pot.

The credit for inventing Cincinnati Chili always goes to "some immigrants from Greece" and the earliest of these appears to be Tom (or Athanas) Kiradjieff who, along with his brother John, opened a hot dog "parlor" (larger than a stand, smaller than a restaurant) next to the Empress Burlesque Theatre on Vine Street in Cincinnati in 1922. The hot dogs, which were made famous on Coney Island, New York, were known as "coneys" and they were sometimes covered with grated cheddar cheese and chili, a meaty concoction from Texas and other parts of the southwest. However, the Kiradjieffs couldn't resist adding a few ingredients to the chili, spices that a Macedonian might like in his stew — allspice, cinnamon, bay leaves, vinegar, — that sort of thing. And they began serving the chili in a plate or a bowl without a hot dog and that was

One Way — chili, with oyster crackers on the side.
Someone suggested adding pasta and that was

Two Way - chili on a bed of spaghetti.
What about adding a mound of cheese? That was

Three Way - chili on spaghetti with grated cheddar on top.
Chopped onions would be added if you ordered it

Four Way - onions underneath cheese on top of chili over spaghetti.
Finally, if you liked beans with your chili, you could have it

Five Way - spaghetti, chili, onions, kidney beans and grated cheese.

The Empress Chili Parlor flourished, and many of the employees struck out on their own, changing the basic chili recipe according to individual taste and attracting new customers in various sections of town. Today you can still have Cincinnati Chili not only in Cincinnati, but also in many franchised chili parlors in the Midwest and South. You can also order it to be sent to you frozen or in cans, and there is a recipe for it as their "hometown dish" from the authors of the Joy of Cooking.

The thing that makes Cincinnatians' recipes different from the way you and I would start cooking the chili is not only the spices, but also the method. They do not start by browning the meat, but by boiling it! Here's an example culled from several versions:

2 pounds ground chuck
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 quart water
2 8 ounce cans tomato sauce
½ teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
4 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ ounce unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 bay leaf, crumbled
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 drops of Tabasco sauce
2 teaspoons paprika
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 teaspoon Accent (optional)

Bring the water to the boil and add the ground beef. Stir until the beef is separated and add the rest of the ingredients. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 to 3 hours, or until thickened. Cool, then refrigerate overnight. Skim off any accumulated fat and reheat the chili.

Serves 6-8, with any or all of the following accompaniments: cooked spaghetti, finely grated cheddar cheese, chopped raw onion, cooked kidney beans, — and oyster crackers.

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