Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chili Stuff

One of my all time favorite stand-by meals when I don’t feel like cooking or haven’t gone grocery shopping or just need something quick and satisfying is Chili Stuff.  Well, that’s what we call it.  I grew up in the sticks of south central Pennsylvania.  I’m not sure how relevant that is to why we ate Chili Stuff . . . A LOT . . . but it might be when you learn the origins of the stuff . . . chili stuff.

I introduced my husband to it fairly early on in our relationship.  He likes chili and he likes pasta and he likes cheese . . . so throw it all together and what’s NOT to like.  He likes it. 

My recipe for Chili Stuff goes as thus . . . one pound thin spaghetti (cooked), two cans Hormel Chili with meat and beans (heated), put the spaghetti in a bowl, top with chili, sprinkle on a boatload of Parmesan cheese, eat.  To make authentic Chili Stuff, it HAS to be Hormel.  Like I said, it’s quick and easy grub. 

Sooooo, one day we were watching the History Channel and a show about food came on . . . one of the foods the details was some stuff called Cincinnati Chili . . . it looked a lot like our Stuff! 

Central Pennsylvania – Ohio . . . not so far apart geographically.  The possible influence of our neighbor is duly noted.

History of Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati, Ohio loves their chili . . . almost as much as Texas or maybe more.  Believe it or not, Cincinnati is the second biggest chili state and has more than 180 chili establishments . . . they like their chili.   However, Cincinnati-style chili is nothing like Texas chili.  The people of Cincinnati are serious about their chili.

What’s so different about it?  For one thing it has much soupier consistency.  And then there’s the curious combination of spices used to season the meat . . . cinnamon, chocolate or cocoa, allspice, and Worcestershire.   

Like our Chili Stuff, the good folks of Cincinnati like chili over a pile of pasta.  And then to top it off it is ‘garnished’ with a combination of chopped onions, shredded Cheddar cheese, refried beans or kidney beans, and crushed oyster crackers.

Also there is a proper way to order the chili . . . two-way, three-way, four-way, five-way, six-way.

·         A Two-Way is simply Chili served on spaghetti but no true Cincinattian orders a two-way . . . it must always come with cheese!
·         A Three-Way is a two-way topped with cheddar cheese
·         A Four-Way  is a three-way topped with chopped onions
·         A Five-Way is a four-way topped with kidney beans
·         A Six-way is a five-way topped with sour cream

All this is served heaping – Ohioans don’t skimp on the ingredients – on a traditional oval dish. The oyster crackers are served on the side.

If you happen to be ordering chili in Cincinatti and you want to test the establishment for authenticity, ask for a Four-Way. If the server asks you whether you want beans or onions, you know this is fake Cincinnati chili, since Four-Way always comes with onions.

This is how they make their chili in Cincinnati:

Cincinnati Chili Recipe

  • 4 Large Cloves Garlic, Pressed
  • 2 Large Onions, Chopped
  • 1 Qt. Water
  • 2 Pounds Ground Beef
  • 1 (16 Oz) Can Tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons White Vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Ground Cumin
  • 1 Large Bay Leaf
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Allspice
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

In a large skillet, sauté the garlic and onions in hot lard. Add water until simmering. Add the beef. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, Worcestershire and all of the spices. Simmer for 3 hours.

Truthfully, I’ve never made “authentic” Cincinnati Chili.  Chili Stuff is supposed to be quick and easy . . . not a three hour ordeal.   But, I may try it some time . . . or just go to Cincinnati, Ohio.

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