Back in 1989 or 1990, I can't recall which, I found myself staying a couple of days in Cincinnati, Ohio on business. I'd driven through a few times, but never spent anytime there. It's a wonderful town! Lots to see and do and nice people, too. A person I was working with who was a resident of Cincinnati took me to a place called Skyline Chili, and it was the beginning of a love affair that has lasted through the years. Beyond Skyline, many local restaurants and bars in the area serve this regional favorite.
Growing up in Detroit, I had my share of chili (most of which was served atop a natural casing hotdog in the form of a Coney Island), and I've had chili in other parts of the country like Texas, where they don't use ground beef but small dices of beef and NO beans. What sets Cincinnati's chili apart are a couple of things. First, the seasonings. There may be some chili powder in the mix, but there is also things like allspice, cinnamon, cocoa, and I've even see some recipes that call for cloves. Things one would expect to see in a baking recipe.
The second unique thing about this chili is the way it is served. Sure, you could ladle it right out of the pot and put in a bowl and eat it (that's a "one-way," by the way) or you could do like most and serve it on top of spaghetti noodles (that's a "two-way"). But why stop there?? Put some shredded cheese over the chili that is sitting on top of the spaghetti (welcome to the "three-way) and then put some onions over the cheese ("four-way") and show your gusto by topping the whole thing off with kidney beans (you're now experiencing the "five-way" chili)!
In my book, ANY WAY is good with this savory chili. It's easy to make, and with the add-on ingredients this recipe can feed a hungry crowd! Thanks, Cincinnati, for this wonderful gift!
2 TBSP vegetable oil
2 1/2 lbs ground beef (I prefer to use chuck)
1 quart cold water
1 6oz can tomato paste
2 large onions, diced
1 1/2 TBSP vinegar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 TBSP salt
2 TBSP chili powder
5 bay leaves
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 TBSP cocoa powder (unsweetened)
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat the oil and then add ground beef. Cook beef until just browned. Remove fat from pot (you may have to transfer the meat out to accomplish this, depending on how much fat is in the pan). Restore cooked meat to pot and add water and diced onions. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add 1 TBSP of salt, tomato paste, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and spices. Stir ingredients until well combined. Cover pot and allow to simmer for 90 minutes to two hours. TASTE! Add salt and pepper as needed (to your taste). It is now ready to serve over cooked spaghetti - feel free to add cheese, onions and kidney beans (cooked) if you're feeling wild! Serve and enjoy the hospitality of Cincinnati!