Cincinnati Chili, Liggett Style

Cincinnati Chili is famous around the southwestern Ohio region, and through my efforts, in Kansas and California too. It was brought to Cincinnati by a Greek immigrant family who opened a restaurant in downtown Cincinnati that they called Skyline because of the view. The chili is different than “normal” chili, and was a huge hit. You order it as a three-way, four-way, or five-way depending upon the toppings.

This version of the recipe is copyrighted, patented, and all rights reserved, so if you make it, you must send me a dollar. Or, at least think of me kindly.

The basic recipe will make about 4 servings, depending on how large they are, you might get 6. It is easy to vary the meat amounts, or even double or triple the amounts as it expands easily.

1-2 lbs ground beef, 80% or more lean is best
2 T chili powder (depending upon the hotness of the power, adjust other seasonings to taste)
2-4 cloves garlic
½ to ¼ t cayenne (you can go more if you want the heat, I usually use ¼ for my soft-mouthed family)
2 t cinnamon
¾ t turmeric
1 large T ground allspice
½ t cardamom
1 large t cumin
2 t paprika (again, adjust if it is hot)
½ to ¾ t ground cloves
1 large t unsweetened cocoa
2 t salt
2 T white vinegar
8 oz tomato sauce
1 qt water

I am loose with the quantities and those given above are my best guess about what I really do. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl (I use minced garlic, so I hold that out for now). It is best to have whole spices and grind them if you can.

Brown the meat in a large pot until it loses its pink color. If there is too much liquid when done you can pour off some of the fat. You want fairly dry mix of meat. Fry the garlic in with the meat until it is fragrant. Dump in the complete spice mix and let it fry with the meat and remaining grease. I think frying the spices is an essential part, something I learned from Indian cooking. Some will brown nicely and stick to the pan, but do not let it burn.

After a few minutes, when the spices smell fragrant deglaze the pan with the vinegar. Follow quickly with the tomato sauce and water. Heat and simmer for 30-60 minutes (depending upon how hungry you are). The more you cook it down the “meatier” it is, but the fewer you serve. It will be thinner than “normal” chili.

Serving: cook a batch of spaghetti noodles, and drain. Serve the chili over the noodles and top with:

  • Shredded sharp cheese and oyster crackers (three way)
  • Cheese, diced onions, crackers (four way)
  • Cheese, onions, pinto beans, crackers (five way)

Eat and Enjoy.

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