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anyone from Cincinnati here who can give some Cincy Chili advice?

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Hi 'hounds,
Anyone from Cincinnati here who could offer some advice?
Here's the project: a homemade, "upmarket" Skyline-style Chili over the Xmas break because my wife is from Cincy and the in-laws are visiting... I did this last year to rave reviews but I want to improve my recipe this year.
I'll be replacing the ground beef with something that will braise in the sauce then shred (short ribs or a chuck roast most likely), the dried spaghetti with homemade tagliatelle, the orange cheese with a 10yr Cheddar, and the raw onions with a combination of caramelized and fried.
Here's my issues-
1. to brown or not to brown? I know the traditional recipe is not browned...
2. cooking liquid- water and tomato paste? tomato sauce? stock?
3. spices- chocolate and cinnamon are givens, and I'll likely use some amount of allspice, clove, and chili powder- what else?
4. additions- I see a lot of recipes with Worcestershire sauce, vinegar (cider? Red wine?)

Any ideas would be appreciated!
Thank you!

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  1. Hey, I'm a purist

    1. Not to brown! Otherwise it isn't Cincy chili.
    2. Stick with tomato paste and water
    3. Buy the cinci chili mix
    4. See 3 above

    The only thing I do is let guests sprinkle cayenne or other spicy chili powder on theirs if the prefer more kick!

    1. Cincy resident here (and I'm heading off to Camp Washington Chili tonite for a 3-way and a cheese coney--yum!)
      -------
      "Here's my issues-
      1. to brown or not to brown? I know the traditional recipe is not browned...
      2. cooking liquid- water and tomato paste? tomato sauce? stock?
      3. spices- chocolate and cinnamon are givens, and I'll likely use some amount of allspice, clove, and chili powder- what else?
      4. additions- I see a lot of recipes with Worcestershire sauce, vinegar (cider? Red wine?)

      Any ideas would be appreciated!
      Thank you!"

      -------

      1: no, do not brown meat. Parlors do not brown, they sautee soft ingredients (onions, granulated garlicetc.) , add spice blend and then add liquids. Then they add raw ground beef. The liquid helps to seperate the ground meat.

      2: Most use water and tomato paste. Some add tomato puree and some or even most add beef broth. It all depends on who makes it.

      3:You pretty much covered the bases, but some add nutmeg. Dixie chili adds nutmeg and a hint of clove but the clove is so powerful most do not use it. It just takes things down an overspiced path. Dixie chili and others also use paprika, cracker meal for thickening, and beef suet because fat=flavor. Some also use just a hint of ground cumin, but you don't want it to start going down the Texas chili path .

      4: I don't use worcestershire sauce nor vinegar (they are very commonly used in the local mock turtle soup tho) but google around and see what others have been using. Several of the cincy chili recipes in the local cookbooks I own do indeed add those two ingredients, but when they do it is in small amounts like a tablespoon of each per every 2 lbs of ground beef.

      As for doing braise and shreded beef, that certainly NOT the standard for any local parlor. Places like Camp Washington Chili very finely grind their beef with a unique grinder whch at times appers to look finey shreaded, but ground beef is the norm. Also, mild yellow chedder or at most medium cheddar is the std. cheese. Sharp cheedar, if put on in the quantity that is the norm, will pucker your pallette as whell as overwhelm the chili itself IMHO.

      With access to a pleathora of local canned Cincy chili as well as dried spice packets, I seldom make my own from scratch any more and will have to dig up my recipe that is around somewhere.

      LOTS of small tweeking variations out there but look online and most who do thier own use the above baseline you list.

      Good luck.

      EDIT: This one seems to be the most popular to date on the copycat sites:

      http://fantasticalsharingofrecipes.bl...

      and this:
      http://happyhomemakercindy.blogspot.c...

      But ceratinly do NOT brown the ground beef as that is how you fail to get the small grind in the final product, use tomato paste and not tomato sauce and most local parlors, as I mentioned above, use std ground beef (75/25) and in some cases add suet to that. It's not a health contious dish and losing that fat does indeed change teh final product. That I do know when doing at home.

      The big challenge is the spice mix as almost any maker keeps thiers under lock and key these days.

      1. Thank you!
        This certainly is not a traditional cincy chili... the idea is to have an upscale version with a thick, rich ragu-like sauce with the classic cincy chili flavors over homemade pasta. Good point about the sharp cheddar, I wonder if there is a better-quality cheese I could sub in...

        1. You've pretty much covered it. While I like caramelized onions, I do think raw is essential to the Cincy style. Maybe minced raw shallots?

          Also, it never hurts to mince some anchovies for the sauce. No one will know they're in there, but they'll give a flavor boost.

          5 Replies
          1. re: sbp

            Most of my braises do have an anchovy or two in there... if I skip the Worcestershire I might have to toss one in.

            1. re: sbp

              Please clarify that to your guests please.

              That's how the "stigma" of "oh, I don't like it" comes about.

              Cincy chili is a low-brow/drunk food/craving type of meal.
              Far fron anything that is "gussied up" around here.
              even at the chili parlors they give you a bib if wearing a dress shirt or a light colored polo or top.
              It's SOP.

              I do medium aged orange cheddar for my mine, but again, it's all a matter of balance. When I lived in D.C /Philly. and made it it was hard to find what I needed cheese-wise( did it with white mild cheddar) but folks loved it. When I lived in Illinois, those that tried it loved it.

              Also remember the oyster crackers.

              It's funny because of all of the years of living in this area, I have never seen ANY high brow riffs or local chefs going all "I'm going to move this up a notch and make my own version that's different" type of movement . NONE. Not on cincy chili.

              They are plenty of local cookbooks using the home made or ready made cincy chili that turns it into a different dish but no good local chef with a right mind will ^&%$ with the std. formula.

              It usually spells a recipe for diasaster if they do. LOL but true.

              let us know how it turns out and I'll do a small batch of the links above and report back.

              It's the holidays and I like to use family as guniea pigs. As always.

              :-)

              1. re: jjjrfoodie

                I've done this before, actually- it got my pescetarian, from Cincinnati wife to eat short ribs, and was served to a crowd of displaced Cincy folk to rave reviews.
                I've spent a good amount of time visiting, have drunkenly dined at PRC plenty of times, but this is about putting into a different context. Will be sure to post the results, though!

                1. re: jdwdeville

                  I used to live in the PR. LOL.

                  PRC was almost a bi-weekly walk (yes ,walk) with my waaay late nite euchre playing neighbors on the weekends. The gravy fries with cheese are still my kryptonite at PRC. :)

                  I like the chili riff.
                  Wish I had a tried-and-true recipe to give ya.

                  I just went thru a 1967 local church cookbook with 4 different renditions of cincy chili and all pretty much are close but still off the mark.

                  It's the journey--not the destination.
                  Hahahahaha.

                  1. re: jjjrfoodie

                    Speaking of the journey- I thought PR tradition dictated a visit to the Gaslight before a walk to PRC?