A Tale of Two Chilis, Part I: Cincinnati-Style Chili

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It was the best of chilis, it was the worst of chilis: chili with beans or chili with meat, chili over noodles or on its own, Skyline or Goldstar, five-alarm spicy or mild for a child.  In short, chili is a dish with many possible incarnations, and although some of the noisiest (self-appointed) authorities insist that their recipe is the best, Laura and I want to present you with two chili options, for comparison only.  In homage to the great Chuck Dickens, thus begins our series of posts entitled A Tale of Two Chilis.

Chili 4

Do you remember a couple of weeks ago when I said that my life is ridiculously busy right now?  Well, that unfortunately hasn’t changed.  When time is short, and you still want to eat decent food, the crockpot is a single gal’s best friend.  So this week, I’m sharing one of my favorite crockpot recipes: Cincinnati-style chili.

My mom found this recipe several years ago in a AAA magazine feature on Cincinnati.  As a former Cincinnati resident, I understand that this city takes its eponymous chili seriously.  And I understand that some of you are going to look at recipe and think, “Hrumph! That’s NOT Cincinnati chili! There’s no cocoa, and the noodles are all wrong.”  Well, yes.  That’s why this is titled Cincinnati-style chili.

This recipe has much of the savory goodness of authentic Cincinnati chili, but the preparation is minimal and it simmers away happily in the crockpot while you work.  “Real” Cincinnati chili is served over spaghetti noodles, and you’re welcome to do that with this recipe.  I just find it much easier to eat served over macaroni noodles.

Cincinnati chili is an adaptable dish: Try it two way (chili and noodles), three way (two way + cheese), four way (three way + chopped raw onions), or even five way (four way + beans).  I take mine three way with lots of oyster crackers.  However you take it, this is convenient Midwestern comfort food at its finest.

Check in next time for Laura’s vegetarian chili. We hope that at the end of this series, you’ll say along with Mr. Dickens,

 “It is a far, far better chili I make than I have ever made; it is a far, far better meal that I eat than I have ever eaten.”

Cincinnati-Style Chili
from AAA’s Journeys magazine, date unknown

1 1/2 pounds ground beef or turkey
1 small onion, chopped
1 (29-oz) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5-oz) can chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 tbs. chili powder
1 tbs. white vinegar
1 clove garlic, peeled
3 bay leaves
one (1-pound) box of macaroni noodles
Toppings of your choice: shredded cheddar cheese, chopped raw onions, beans, or oyster crackers

1. In a medium sized skillet, brown the meat. Add the onions and cook about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Drain the grease.

2. Add the meat and onions to the crockpot along with all the other ingredients. Stir everything to combine. Turn the crockpot on low for 4-5 hours, although a bit longer is also alright.

3. Prepare the noodles according  to the package directions. Remove the garlic and bay leaves from the chili, then serve over the noodles with the additional toppings.