Cincinnati, Ohio is a beautiful place. Aside from being my home town, it's got some other great stuff going for it: rolling hills that suck to bike up, $200 rent, probably the best third floor masonic-temple-gone-noise-venue in the country (RIP Art Damage Lodge). And while our modest little town may not have $250 prix fixe dinners, whenever I visit, I always end up climbing back onto that sketchy Chinatown bus with a bag full of OTRs, Mackinac Island Fudge and a belly full of chili. Yeah, Cincinnati has some seriously baller chili.
It all started back in the 1920s when a couple of Greek immigrant restaurant owners were looking for a way to make a ton of money off trashy Ohioans. A couple shakes of allspice, cinnamon, clove and a chocolate bar later, Cincinnati chili was born.
Then it was poured over a plate of spaghetti and topped with cheese. Honestly, it might not even technically be chili. It rules though, and you prooooobably don't have to be a Cincinnati native to love it.
Withdrawals are tough though and I do all that I can to resist stocking our cabinets with overly preserved cans of the stuff or MSG'd out spice packs. So whenever the craving hits, I usually put on an Afghan Whigs record, pop in the Airborne VHS and get cookin'.
Look at this bougie chocolate I bought at the place by my work. “Rainforest” lol.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 pounds ground beef
1/4 cup chili powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 bay leaf
1/2 square unsweetened chocolate or 1 tablespoon bougie cacao powder
1 1/4 cups beef stock
1 3/4 cups tomato sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil over medium heat, add onions and cook until they stop making you cry. Add ground beef and cook until browned. Flip the Afghan Whigs record (how did Dayton get The Breeders and Guided By Voices and all we got was Afghan Whigs??). Add spices, chocolate, stock, tomato sauce and apple cider vinegar. I probably should have said to get your shit mise en place'd earlier because it took me like 20 minutes to find all those spices in my cabinet, then I realized I was out of tomato sauce. So after you run downstairs to the deli for a can of gross tomato paste and measure out this stupid long list of spices, mix it all in with the ground beef. Simmer for about an hour or however long it takes to make your entire apartment building smell like Cincinnati (but not too long so that you miss this scene), remove bay leaf and enjoy in any variety of ways.
For what is called a “Three-Way” in family restaurants across Cincinnati, pour chili over spaghetti and add cheese. Add raw, chopped onions for a “Four-Way” and onions and beans for a “Five-Way”. Honestly though, nobody really fucks with anything over three. Throw it on a hot dog with cheese for a Cheese Coney. Or, if you're feeling like some truly decadent, fat-fuck Cincinnati fare, layer a baking dish with cream cheese, ladle the chili on top and then finish 'er up with a layer of grated cheddar. Use it as a dip for tortilla chips, and don't plan on leaving the couch for the next several hours. You could make a burrito too, but only SUCKra would do that.
FYI, if you live in New York, pick up the stock and ground beef from Fleisher's in Park Slope. During Eat Drink Local Week (June 23-30), they'll throw in a free pound of Butcher's Choice sausage with every purchase over $20! Hurry!