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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Would Obama Eat This Chili? I Hope So...

Autumn has been dropping by periodically for at least a month now, and with each visit, it leaves us with colder weather, more fiery-coloured fallen leaves, and a definite dampness in the air. There was no point in denying it last week, when we set our clocks back an hour calling an end to Daylight Savings Time. There would be no more warm weather this year so we spent the better part of this past weekend preparing our home for the season ahead. We raked the leaves in our yard, put our outdoor furniture away and cleaned our basement. However, there is an upside to ushering in the cold weather, and it's the transition to the comfort foods which we eat with gluttonous glee. In our household, our favourite winter dish is the king of comfort foods, chili. And if you need further inspiration, apparently US President-Elect Barack Obama also makes a mean chili. With that kind of pedigree, I thought I might share my take on this great American classic this week.

While Americans are definitely passionate about chili, there is little agreement on what constitutes a proper chili. In fact, my quick internet search this morning revealed many permutations and combinations of chili based on regional tastes and ingredients. Say what you may, and however you like your chili, it’s a great cold weather dish and definite crowd pleaser. I can vouch that this is an absolutely delicious, flavourful and easy chili which has pleased the hearts and stomachs of many over the years.

The incarnation of this chili began many years ago when I was introduced to Cincinnati Chili. It had me at “hello” and it has been love ever since. Cincinnati Chili is a hugely popular chili all along the Ohio River Valley. It's more of a meat sauce in a thin, but rich broth served over spaghetti with a mound of thinly rasped orange-coloured cheddar. This is known as a Three-Way chili. Serve it with raw onions (!) and it’s a Four-Way and further top it with kidney beans and it’s a Five-Way. Any which way, I love Cincinnati Chili because of the rich flavours and perhaps because it is served over my favourite noodle, spaghetti. This version is still bold, but thicker and includes vegetables for additional flavour.

Don’t be put out by the parade of spices required for this recipe. It’s mostly common everyday spices that you have in your cupboard today, and is certainly worth the effort. This symphony of warm middle-eastern spices is really Moroccan-inspired, bearing a strong resemblance to one of my favourite spice mixes, charmoula, a North African blend of spices and herbs. And if you think the chocolate is a strange ingredient in this chili, please trust me on this one. Think of a Mexican chocolate mole sauce which is savoury, rich and complex. In this instance, chocolate is used to deepen and enrich flavours and this is exactly what it does in this for this chili. Try it out and if you absolutely, don’t like it, write me back and tell me about it.

In the past, I have made two versions for parties, a meat version and a vegetarian one. To make this vegetarian, I use a can of kidney beans (but use whatever beans you like) plus whatever vegetables you enjoy.

I have cooked this recipe in a slow cooker for a large weekend batch, but it easily cooked in a Dutch oven or any large stove top pot.

Cincinnati-Style Chili

1 lb lean ground beef
1 large onion finely minced
1 garlic clove minced
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp all spice
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp chili powder
1 pinch ground cloves
2 bay leaves

1/2 pepper diced
1 celery stalk diced
10 white mushrooms sliced

1 28oz can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste (maybe two if you like your chili thicker)

finely grated cheddar cheese (the amount is up to you)

This recipe doubles nicely if you’re making it for large groups. But do check seasonings for taste, I have found for larger batches, you need to add additional salt, and chili. But I don't double the cocoa powder. I add an additional 1/2tsp.

1. Cook meat, onions and garlic until fully cooked on a low-medium heat. (Cook the meat but do not brown it.) Drain off fat as necessary. Move to a slow cooker.
2. Add the cinnamon, all spice, mustard, cocoa, cumin, salt, chili and ground cloves. Stir to incorporate.
3. Add can of tomatoes, tomato paste, other vegetables and bay leaves to the slow cooker. Mix thoroughly and cover.
4. Simmer for 8 hours in slow cooker or at least 2 hours on a stove top.
5. Serve with rice as I have done here or if you're more traditional, over spaghetti. Top with finely grated cheddar.


Timeless Gourmet said...

Thanks for the comment - and wishing you a most tasty next birthday!
I'm in on this chili - I make chili every week for a good four months out of the year, but have never made Cincinnati style! Looks great, and I'll give it a go.

Hungry Gal said...

@ timeless gourmet

Thanks for posting...

Hope you let me know how it turns out!

Gloria Chadwick said...

Your chili sounds good. Thanks for entering the chili cook-off. :)

Sophie said...

This sounds like a hearty chili, it sounds delicious, I like the photo with all the spices :). I'd love to feature this recipe on our blog, please let me know if you're interested :).

Have a great weekend!
Sophie, Key Ingredient Chief Blogger

Mike said...

I am so tired of my current chili recipe...yours looks great! I love the spice list. It looks like I have just added something else to my "to do" list!

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