The first time I learned about Cincinnati Chili I was both visually and mentally put off. It looks like spaghetti topped with meat sauce, cheese, onions and kidney beans, and some of the ingredients include allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa powder and nutmeg. That is a lot to take in when you are only used to a) basic spaghetti and meat sauce and b) chili that usually comes in a bowl with crackers on the side.
After more research, I discovered that Cincinnati Chili was created by immigrant restaurateur Tom Kiradjieff, a Macedonian immigrant who ran a hot dog stand in Cincinnati in the 1920s. While crafting a sauce to serve atop his hot dogs Tom added the flavors of Greece, by way of spices, and “Opa!” Cincinnati Chili was born.
Knowing this made it easier for me to embrace Cincinnati Chili. I appreciate foods from different cultures; I just needed to know the “Why?” behind the flavoring in this dish. While I prepared my Cincinnati Chili I listened to Ο χορός τών άστρων by Elli Paspala. I have no idea what the lyrics mean but it was a great song to cook to for inspiration.
I was skeptical about this dish from the get go. While the aroma of the married spices were wafting in the air I let out a Marge Simpson groan because I still could not imagine the flavor atop spaghetti, mingled with the other ingredients. And I proved myself wrong once again. The aroma is indeed strong but the flavor of the meat sauce is incredibly rich and balanced.
I’m not sure if the layering I used is correct, because I found several recipes that varied. Also, after looking at several Cincinnati Chili photos I obviously went light on the toppings. The Cincinnati Chili recipe I followed is from Saveur. And Cincinnati Chili is generally served with oyster crackers.
Before I started cooking my Cincinnati Chili I called my sister to tell her about the recipe—she likes to cook as well—and she said, “That does not sound very appetizing.” Now I am going to call her and describe, in detail, how delicious it is, and she’s going to say, “Oooooo, I want the recipe!”