Thursday, May 07, 2015

Crockpot Cincinnati Style Chili

To me, Cincinnati chili is more of a sauce than an actual chili. Also, there are NO beans in my Cincinnati chili in this household. If you want beans in your Cincinnati chili, go down to Texas, you big freak! Although, there are people who order and eat it this way…BLEH!

Okay, for the uninitiated, Cincinnati Chili is kind of a big thing in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and even in some parts of Florida. It’s a regional thing and a person can hardly spit in Ohio without hitting either a Skyline Chili restaurant, or its rival Goldstar Chili. Loyalties are fierce for which chain makes the best Cincinnati style chili. I am pro-Skyline all the way. Although I've never had Goldstar chili, why try another when you know you are eating the best?

Cincinnati chili has a very different flavor profile than its typical southern-based cousin. Skyline Chili was originally founded in the late 1940’s by Greek immigrants in Cincinnati, Ohio, so the chili has unusual ingredients like cinnamon and cloves, but you will also find the familiar ground cumin and chili powder. Cincinnati chili also has a finer texture than its typical, meaty brethren, and you can either have it with beans (yuck!) or not. Plus, there’s the whole spaghetti and oyster crackers thing.

I got into Cincinnati chili through my ex-husband, who is from Cincinnati. We used to make several pilgrimages a year to Ft. Lauderdale, where one of the few Skyline restaurants were located, to gorge ourselves on 4-ways and cheese coneys. Ever since then, I've been hooked and make a point to go to a Skyline whenever I am in one of the 4 states its restaurants reside.  Why the chain hasn't spread across the country, I’ll never know. WE NEED MORE SKYLINE CHILI RESTAURANTS!!! You can even buy their products in the frozen section of your grocery store like White Castle burgers. What’s up with that???

Anyway, I digress. Unless I move to Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, or back to Florida (NOT happening), I will have to make my own Skyline copy-cat. This is as close to the real deal as I have been able to find. If you blindfolded me and had me try this homemade version and a real plate of Skyline, it would be very hard for me to tell the difference.  The cheese isn’t as finely shredded, but I can live with that! Bibs are optional. :-)

Note, I usually double the following recipe, as you will DEFINITELY want leftovers. Also, you will need a handheld, stick blender or food processor to get the right consistency. 

Kathy’s Crockpot Cincinnati Style Chili
Recipe modified from:

1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups water
2 cups crushed tomatoes
6 oz. can of tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 whole bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

cooked spaghetti, optional
shredded cheese, optional (I use Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Cheddar)
chopped onions, optional

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef with the diced onions. Once the meat is nearly brown and the onions are tender, add the minced garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Add the meat mixture and everything else (excepts the optional toppings, of course) to the crock pot, and cook on low for eight hours or high for four. About 1 hour before you serve, fish out the bay leaf and lightly puree the chili using a blender stick. You want the chili to have a fine meat texture, but not liquefied. If you've ever had real Cincinnati style chili, you'll know the texture I'm talking about. If you do not have a stick blender, carefully ladle the chili into a food processor, process accordingly, and return to crockpot. Continue to cook the chili for the remaining hour.

Lastly, taste the chili to check if it needs more salt or sugar and flavor to your preferences.

To serve, pile some spaghetti on the plate, top with the chili, then shredded cheese and onions

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