Tuesday, October 27, 2009

0 Recipe #56: Cyberpenguin's Cincinnati Chili

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The subject of chili is a topic that evokes passionate debate in my family. From the start, my mother put forth some pretty strong opinions about what kind of chili, if any, her family would be consuming, and so, we grew up eating very little of it, & when we did, it was always a vegetarian chili. :)

The irony is that, at university, I won a cooking contest for, you guessed it, my vegetarian chili. :)

And the prize for my efforts? A hardbound copy of Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant: Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant. A great reward indeed! This cookbook is virtual goldmine of recipes that I still use to this very day!

It was not until after university, that I ventured forth & tasted the meat version, which was first made using Wick Fowler's 2-Alarm Chili spice mix, in my own kitchen. I don't normally resort to using commercial pre-packaged spice-mixtures; however, for Wick Fowler's 2-Alarm Chili spice mix, it's worth making an exception. :) I'm happy to report that the results of my first meat chili were decent, and since then, I've made several different versions -- both vegetarian & meat versions -- adding different ingredients like green & red peppers, onions, beans, masa harina de maiz (corn flour), and amazingly, even chocolate (for Cincinnati Chili, which, if you're curious, is similar in concept to a chocolate mole sauce, where the chocolate is more of a subtle accent versus an overriding flavor). (I know the addition of unsweetened chocolate might sound bizarre to some people -- and yes, I was a tad bit skeptical about the concept at first too, but trust me, it adds a really amazing flavor to the dish. Plus, it's fun to be adventurous, try something different every now & then, & expand one's horizons. Especially when that something is really, really good. :) )

I've grown to really enjoy & appreciate homemade chili, in part, due to my continual experimentation with it in the kitchen, & also because of my squeeze, Erik, who often requests it when the weather turns colder. :) I've also served this chili to my parents and also to some family friends, and both times it got a very enthusiastic response. (I was especially surprised by the former, given my mother's previously stated, steadfast opinions with regard to meat-based chili. ;) ) In the latter instance, our friend Gerry was over at the house that day and he couldn't stop raving about it. In fact, I saw him during my last visit home, and he mentioned it again. I think he might've been dropping some hints. ;)

Anyhow, here's my own version of Cincinnati Chili. Frankly, I don't like the idea of chili mixed with pasta, (which, I believe is the traditional way it's served in Cincinnati ;) ), so my version is served with tortilla chips instead, which is more like "Cincinnati Chili by way of Mexico." :)

Also, the nice thing about my version of this recipe is that it calls for 93% fat-free meat (or whatever the highest fat-free version is that you can find) & doesn't require any additional oil; the garlic & onions are cooked in the tomato juice from the canned tomatoes. Just one of the low-fat cooking tactics from my bag o' tricks. :)

This recipe is packed with flavor, so those you serve it to won't even realize that it's lower in fat. Shhhhh! :)

Anyhow, here's the recipe. Enjoy!

Cyberpenguin's Cincinnati Chili

2 lbs. 93% fat-free ground beef (or whatever the highest percentage low-fat beef you can find!)
1 large yellow onion, diced
2-3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 14.5-oz. can of diced tomatoes (NOTE: Be sure to reserve juice!)
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
4 fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1-2 c. water
2 tsp. paprika
1-2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper (Adjust for heat to suit individual preferences: Adding 1 tsp. will add a small kick to your chili; adding 2 tsp. or more will add a bit more; and, adding 2+ tsp. plus some Tabasco sauce will a "Ka-pow!" :) )
1/3 c. Mexican chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1 tsp. dried cilantro leaves
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. ground allspice powder
1/4 tsp. ground clove powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon powder
2 Tbsp. (Hershey's) unsweetened cocoa powder
salt, to taste (between 1-2 tsp.)
1 (15.5 or) 16-oz. can kidney or pinto beans
2 Tbsp. masa harina de maiz (corn flour)
fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

1. Brown meat in large sauce pot. Drain, transfer meat to bowl, & set aside.
2. Sauté onions & garlic in the tomato juice (from the diced tomatoes can) on medium-high heat using the same sauce pot you used to cook the meat. (Using the same sauce pot will add flavor to the onions & garlic & also save on dishwasher loads; this is a good way to be economical & green. And also, it's great for those of us who hate washing dishes & despise cleaning anything in general. :) )
2. Cook garlic & onion mixture until translucent, stirring frequently.
3. Next, add meat & all other ingredients except for kidney beans, masa, & fresh cilantro leaves. Turn down heat to low & simmer with the lid on for 30 min.
4. Check on chili & add water if necessary. Taste for flavor balance, & adjust to suit your personal preferences.
5. Add kidney beans & masa. Slow cook with lid on for 60 more minutes. Taste, and continue to cook until desired thickness has been reached, approximately 30-60 additional minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves & serve.

Yield: 8 servings.

Serving Suggestions: Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve with low-fat/baked tortilla chips. I personally recommend R.W. Garcia Flaxseed Tortilla Chips, which are a tasty, crunchy, & yes, healthy alternative to plain ole' tortilla chips. :) To accompany the chili, I recommend either the Blue Corn w/Flaxseed or Flaxseed w/Soy varieties. The other flavors are probably too busy for this dish; there's enough flavor sensations already going on with the chili itself. Best not to overdo it & keep the focus on the main event, i.e., the chili. :)

Alternate Ingredients: Add California black olives. Or try fresh green & red pepper (cut into small strips), &/or cooked corn kernels.

Chef's Notes: Chili freezes well, and can keep for several months.

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