Cincinnati Chili


Bearing no resemblance to Southwestern chili con carne,  Cincinnati chili includes five separate layers in its full configuration. On a thick oval plate, a base is created from a heap of limp spaghetti noodles; they in turn are topped by a sauce of finely-ground, enthusiastically-spiced beef, then beans, then raw onions, and finally a fluffy crown of cheddar cheese. Oyster crackers are the traditional garnish.

No Cincinnati chili cook gives out the recipe, but this one comes pretty close to the superlative five-way served at our favorite Queen City chili parlor, Camp Washington. If you don’t have one particular seasoning, or want to add another, feel free: all cooks should make this dish their own!

Roadfood review of Camp Washington Chili Parlor

1 pound ground beef
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup thick barbecue sauce
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate, grated
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
tomato juice, as needed
9 ounces spaghetti, cooked and lightly buttered
1 16-ounce can kidney beans, heated and drained
1 pound Cheddar cheese, finely shredded
oyster crackers as garnish

Brown the meat with half the chopped onions and garlic, stirring to keep it loose. Drain any fat from the pan. Add BBQ sauce and water. Bring mixture to boil. Add spices, cover the pan, and lower the heat. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The chili will thicken. Add tomato juice as necessary to create a brew that will ladle up easily. Allow the chili to rest at least 30 minutes in a covered pan. (It may be refrigerated and reheated to serve.)

To make each plate, put a layer of spaghetti down, top it with hot chili, then a few beans, then chopped onions, to taste. Pat on the cheese so the chili’s heat can begin to melt it. Serve immediately with oyster crackers.

4 servings

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