Monday, August 9, 2010

VAS YOU EVER IN ZINZINNATI?

We are a family of readers. And growing up, there was always this book on one of our bookshelves called Vas You Ever in Zinzinnati? (along with “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” and “Fried Chicken Every Sunday” as well as a multitude of Louis L’Amour novels)
Well, in our house, that makes total sense, since my parents are from Cincinnati (or at least spent a good chunk of their lives there). So, being the sentimental old fool that I’m growing into, I couldn’t resist this copy when I ran across it on PaperbackSwap recently. I’ve never read the book, but I do own a copy now.
This all came to mind because this weekend I was doing something else very "Cincinnati". A few weeks ago, the hubs and I were taking in a little FoodNetwork and Guy Fieri, (who I normally enjoy quite a bit)and, frankly, well, he pissed me off.
See, there is this wonderful thing in the Cincinnati area called Cincinnati Chili. Cincinnati is filled with chili parlors, and everyone has their favorite (mine, most definitely is Skyline Chili.). Cincinnati chili is an entirely different breed of chili. It is neither chunky, thick, nor spicy. It is not filled with beans and vegetables. Instead, it is thin and savory, and served over spaghetti. That's right. Spaghetti.

I have found that most people either love it or hate it, and I am definitely a lover of some good Cincinnati Chili.

That being said. Guy Fieri's feature recipe on that fateful day a few weeks ago?

"Wierd Spaghetti"

You might say I was moderately offended. To his credit, he DID say that this was only "in the style of Cincinnati Chili" and its a good thing he said that, because, in truth, it wasn't even in the same family. The hubs was watching me intently, because he knows how serious I am about my Cincinnati Chili, and I think he was waiting for my head to start spinning "a la Poltergheist".

Aside from what I considered a huge faux pas on Fieri's part, it did put me in the mood to make a batch of the real deal. Over the years, I have been tweaking a recipe for my own version; still lacking something from real Skyline flavor, but satisfying nonetheless when I am craving some good hometown flavors.

If you are a Cincinnati Chili fan, you know that there is a very specific ordering process. You identify how you want your chili by indicating how many "ways" you like it. For example, in true Skyline fashion, I take mine as a "three-way". This means:

1. a pile of spaghetti

2. a big scoop of chili

3. topped with a pile of shredded cheddar.
Like so.

There are also other options. You can have a four-way or five way, which add either beans or onions to the list, or you can choose a chili dog. If you're a true connoisseur, you will slide your oblong dish facing away from you, which makes for less "splatter" while you're slurping up your personal pile of happiness. (I have a special bowl at home, just for this purpose. I know, try to cover up your "shocked" face.)

Yes, I am a freak. This I know.

And although I know that chili may seem like an odd choice in the arrid savannah also known as "Illinois in August", I made a batch of chili. (like I said...freak. old news here.) Although my recipe is constantly evolving (kudos to my Aunt Gert, who gave me her recipe to start from many years ago when I was visiting) my Aunt Gert's recipe is one I can always fall back on, so I am including it here. If I ever get mine tweaked "just so" I'l be sure to post it as well!

CINCINNATI CHILI

2 lbs ground beef, cooked until grey 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 large onion, chopped 1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic or 2 tsp garlic powder salt and pepper to taste
2 cups water 1/2 tsp cinnamon
30 oz tomato sauce 2 TBS chili powder

In spice bag or tea ball: or 2 tsp ground allspice
18 whole allspice or 3 bay leaves, (remove when done)
3 bay leaves

Combine all ingredients in 3 ½ quart crock pot. Cook on high heat for half an hour, then at least five hours on low heat. Remove spice bag.
Serve over cooked spaghetti, and top with diced onion and finely grated cheddar or longhorn cheese. Serve with oyster crackers.

I certainly can't guarantee that you'll like Cincinnati Chili, but if you want something different, give this a shot and let me know what you think!

4 comments:

David said...

I do love my mom's chili! One of the variations I use is whatever amount of cinnamon is put in, an equal amount of cayenne pepper is helpful to get a balanced hot/sweet taste. Also, replacing half the meat with grilled ribeye (if you happen to ever cook too much steak) is a nice "change of pace." Enjoy :-)

Bev said...

I love, love, love Cincinnati Chili! We are in Montana tonight on a five week trip to the far Northwest and I have a can of Skyline Chili in my RV pantry...true story! The only place I've found to buy it at home is Meijer's.

Also, I have a recipe for a great Cincinnati Chili from a co-worker many years ago who grew up there and was also a dyed-in-the-wool devotee.

When I get back home, I'll send you my recipe. You may find another "tweak" or two in it.

Joanne said...

Well the good thing about Guy's faux pas was that he inspired you to make some seriously AWESOME chili! I've never had cincinnati chili before. But now I have to.

My twitter handle is joanneeatswell! There's a link on the side of my blog. What's yours??

Anne said...

Mmmm, now I need some. I've been using a recipe from a Marcia Adams cookbook that isn't bad. I didn't know you had one from a family source. Snagging it!

(I wrote a book report and gave a presentation on that book in, I think, 7th grade.)