Why This Recipe Works
This Midwestern diner specialty is an unusual marriage of American chili and Middle Eastern spices. For an easy weeknight meal, we wanted to pare the list of ingredients down to the essentials without compromising the distinctive character of the dish. The beef in Cincinnati Chili isn’t sautéed like the beef in other chilis, so there is no way to remove the fat. To avoid greasiness, we blanched ground chuck for half a minute, which got rid of most of the fat but still left plenty of flavor.
The spices used in this chili vary from recipe to recipe. We settled on a limited palette starring chile powder, oregano, cinnamon, and cocoa powder, which we bloomed in hot oil for more depth of flavor. Water and tomato sauce are the traditional base for the sauce; we added chicken broth for balance. Vinegar and brown sugar livened things up. After a long simmer, the chili was ready to be served, and we couldn’t think of a better way to do it than “five-way”—over spaghetti, topped with cheddar cheese, chopped onions, and kidney beans.