Monday, March 2, 2009

Cincinnati chili, sort of

Craving some red meat, I made chili on the weekend. But not just any chili -- Cincinnati chili. What is Cincinnati chili? Well, according to Cooks Illustrated's 2009 Soups and Stews issue, it's a beefy chili that's spiced, but not spicy, if that makes sense. It doesn't bowl you over with heat, you're not running to the fridge every 30 seconds to get more water, it's full of subtle but definite spices such as cinnamon and allspice, as well as other ingredients such as cider vinegar and brown sugar to round out the flavour. This was exactly the kind of dish I was looking for, so I gave it a whirl.

Though I stuck pretty close to the Cooks Illustrated recipe -- they do all the trial and error so you don't have to -- when it came to serving up the chili I made a few modifications. Traditional Cincinnati chili calls for everything to be served separately. The chili is typically served over spaghetti, as if it were a super thick Bolognese sauce, and then topped with condiments from grated cheddar to diced raw onion to kidney beans. I tend to enjoy my chili best with everything, except for the cheese, mixed right in, so I cooked some short pasta (elbow macaroni) and drained and rinsed a can of kidney beans to incorporate toward the end of the cooking process.

If you like chili, but not the overpowering heat, this recipe's for you.

Cincinnati Chili

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups canned tomato sauce (not spaghetti sauce)
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp dark brown sugar
1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pkg elbow macaroni (optional)
Cheddar cheese, grated, for garnish
Green onions, diced, for garnish

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, salt, pepper, and allspice and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Stir in broth, tomato sauce, vinegar, and sugar.

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. If adding beans directly to mixture, add them in the last 6-8 minutes of cooking. If adding cooked pasta, add in the last minute of cooking and stir into chili mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in bowls with shredded cheddar cheese and diced green onions on top.

Modified from: Cooks Illustrated Soups & Stews, Winter 2009, Boston Common Press Limited Partnership



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