Regional Cooking: Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati Chili

Not long before he died, my grandfather sent me his recipe for his famous Cincinnati Chili.  I was thinking of him over the holidays and reminiscing about his chili and cheese grits with my brother.  In the spirit of family and regional cooking, I’ll share his “secret” recipe that he was careful to pass along to me.

Cincinnati Chili is a regional style of chili con carne which is believed to originated with immigrants from Macedonia and has been served for almost a century in hot dog stands, diners and “chili parlors” throughout Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.  Cincinnati Chili has a thin consistency and is made with seasonings such as cinnamon, cloves, chocolate or allspice.  It is usually served over spaghetti or hot dogs and often topped with shredded cheddar cheese and diced onions.

I did a little research and found that there is an art to ordering this chili, something like ordering a coffee at Starbucks.  Here’s an example:

  • Bowl:  chili in a bowl (may be served with oyster crackers)
  • Two-way:  chili and spaghetti
  • Three-way:  chili, spaghetti and cheese
  • Four-way:  chili, spaghetti, cheese and onions
  • Five-way:  chili, spaghetti, cheese, onions and beans
  • Four-way bean:  chili, spaghetti, cheese and kidney beans

Cincinnati chili can also top a “coney dog,” which usually also includes mustard, cheddar and onion.

Cincinnati Chili

makes 2 quarts

Combine the contents of 1 package of chili mix (any brand) with 1 – 6 ounce can of tomato paste in a large saucepan and add 6 cups of cold water.  Add 1½ lbs. of lean ground beef – RAW (do not brown).  Stir with a fork until the beef is completely broken into small pieces.

Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring vigorously.  Sprinkle in 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 4 bay leaves and 2 dried chilies.

Reduce to a simmer and DO NOT COVER.  Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 3 hours until desired consistence – not too watery and not too thick.

Serve over spaghetti and add grated cheddar cheese.  Makes good conies, too.

Add salt, pepper and hot sauce to individual taste.

Sounds crazy, but it works.  And only one dirty pan.

 

Around the World #5: Chocolate con Churros in Spain

Photo Credit: Leslie Montes
Inviting fruteria on a rainy night in Madrid

It’s Thanksgiving, and I think of two of my daughters who are far away:  one in Cairo and the other in Madrid.  Although I can’t travel to Spain, I will imagine the busy streets of Madrid and take you there with a couple of recipes to make a typical Spanish breakfast.  There’s so much I could write about Spanish food, with all of its flavor and regional variety but I’ll keep it simple!

When visiting Madrid, a traditional way to start the day is to stop by a local cafeteria for chocolate con churros.  This breakfast treat is inexpensive and delicious, but not exactly a dieter’s delight!  The hot chocolate is thick, almost like pudding, and churros are sticks of fried dough meant to be dipped in the chocolate.  Churros can be sprinkled with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar (Mexican style) and come in 2 sizes:  thick (porras) or thin (churros).  Places like Chocolatería San Ginés in Madrid’s center are popular and open all night long if you’re on Spanish time and prefer late night to early morning.

Photo Credit: Leslie Montes

Spanish Chocolate

Mixing the Chocolate

3 tablespoons cocoa powder (preferably Dutch or dark cocoa)

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons corn starch

1/2 cup water

2 cups milk

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate (chopped bar or chocolate chips)

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix cocoa powder, sugar and corn starch together in a saucepan.  Slowly add water until mixed thoroughly.  Place on a burner, turn heat to medium high and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.  Watch very carefully as the mixture will become very thick and come to a boil quickly.  Take off the heat and whisk milk in slowly until well blended.

Turn down heat to medium and return to the burner.  Do not bring to a boil again – just heat.  Whisk in semisweet chocolate until thick and smooth.  Turn off heat and stir in vanilla.  Chocolate will be thick – almost like pudding.  If too thick, add a little milk until it’s the consistency you like.

Dough goes into the churro press

Churros

1 cup flour

1 cup water

1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

(oil for frying)

Powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar

Mix water, salt and oil.  Heat t0 a boil and add flour all at once, stirring quickly with a wooden spoon until a soft dough is formed.  Let cool.  When cold, spoon into a pastry bag, cookie press or churro press fitted with a star tip.  Heat oil in a deep fryer or heavy pan.

Press churro dough into long strips into the hot oil and fry.  You may need to cut with a knife or kitchen shears.  Fry until golden brown and remove to a plate lined with paper towels.  Once slightly cooled, arrange on a serving plate and sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.

Serve warm with Spanish hot chocolate.

Around the World #4: To England with Bangers and Mash

Scarsdale Tavern – Edwardes Square, London

This one is dedicated to my youngest daughter – born in London and an Anglophile through and through.

Bangers and Mash is a traditional English dish (aka sausage and mashed potatoes).  It can be served with onion gravy and I topped with fried onions.  You’ll find bangers and mash on pub menus and it’s a simple and hearty meal.  According to legend, the term “bangers” came about during WWII, when sausages were made with water and were likely to explode if not cooked carefully.  Today’s upscale chefs often create exotic variations on this simple fare, but my version is pretty plain jane.  I did use a vegetarian Tofurkey sausage in addition to fresh Italian sausages from Whole Foods and admit that my first impression of the veggie version is “just ok.”  Maybe I’ll get used to them.

Here’s to pub grub for autumn weather!

 

Bangers and Mash

Sausages:

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced

4 Italian Sausages (or vegetarian sausages)

Beer (if desired – I used Guiness)

Ingredients

Mash:

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1/4 sweet onion, diced

2-4 tablespoons half and half

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Dash of salt

In a saute pan, heat olive oil on medium heat.  Add sliced onion and brown slowly for about 5 minutes.  Move to the side of the pan to continue cooking.  Add sausage and brown on all sides, turning at regular intervals.  Add beer to cover bottom of pan, turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring salted water to a boil for potatoes.  Add potato cubes and diced onions, turn heat down and simmer for 20 minutes.  When cooked through (you can test with a fork), drain and put into a large mixing bowl.  Add half and half, cheese and butter and mash potatoes until smooth (a staff mixer works well, or use a potato masher).  Add parsley and mix well.

 

Serve mashed potatoes and sausages on a plate and top with onions and some sauce from the sausage pan if desired.  Bangers and mash are also good with coleslaw on the side.

 

Around the World #3: South Korea and Dolsot Bibimbap

This week’s dish is dedicated to two special family members:  my sister Lori, who was born in South Korea, and my cousin Jake, who will compete in Alpine Skiing at the 2013 World Winter Special Olympics in South Korea!

Dolsot Bibimbap is a Korean dish consisting of steamed rice, vegetables and meat (bibimbap) and served in a hot stone bowl or pot (dolsot).  We have eaten at a nice place called Seoul House, where the bowls are heated over a fire and the hot stone coated with oil gives the rice a sizzling, crispy bottom.   This is a vegetarian version, but I’ve also tried the dish with barbeque beef (bulgogi) and enjoyed it.  I don’t have a Korean “dolsot“, so I used a small cast iron skillet instead.

Dolsot Bibimbap takes some prep work, but if you can enlist a volunteer or two, it’s fun and well worth the effort!

Vegetarian Dolsot Bibimbap

serves 3-4

Dolsot Bibimbap ingredients

 3-4 cups cooked rice (jasmine is great)

1 baby cucumber, cut into matchsticks

Salt

8 oz. firm tofu

Soy sauce

Toasted sesame oil

1 carrot, or several baby carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks

1 cup bean sprouts

3-4 cups baby spinach (fresh)

Toasted sesame seeds

Small sheet Nori seaweed, cut into thin strips (I use kitchen shears)

1 egg

Korean barbeque sauce

Sprinkle cucumber with salt, leave to drain in a colander while you prepare the remaining ingredients.  Gently squeeze to remove excess water and set aside.

Rinse and drain tofu and cut into 1/2″ slices.  Place some paper towel on a plate, arrange tofu slices, top with more paper towel and another plate, and place a skillet on top to press the tofu.  After about 15 minutes, heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a skillet.  Sprinkle tofu lightly with some soy sauce and then fry the tofu, turning once, until golden.  Remove from pan, let cool and cut into thick strips.

While cucumber and tofu are draining, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in skillet.  Add matchstick carrots and stir fry until tender-crisp.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Bring about 2 cups of water to boil in a pot.  Add salt and blanch sprouts briefly, just until slightly wilted.  Remove sprouts with a slotted spoon (reserving hot water) and plunge into ice water to stop cooking.  Squeeze out excess water and set aside.

Bring water to a boil again and slightly blanch fresh spinach until slightly wilted and still bright green.  Plunge into ice water, drain and squeeze gently. to remove excess water and set aside.

Now that everything is ready, it’s time to assemble the masterpiece.  Place a small cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  When hot, add 1 tablespoon sesame oil and swirl or use a paper towel to coat surface.  Add cooked rice and pack gently.  The rice will sizzle in the oil.  Arrange vegetables in sections on top of the rice.  Cook egg over easy in a separate skillet.  Place on top of vegetables and top with seaweed strips and a sprinkling of toasted sesame.  Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes until heated through.  Serve directly in skillet placed on a trivet on the table.  Each serving can be topped with a little Korean barbeque sauce (or a lot, if you like it hot!) and mixed into the rice and vegetables.

Enjoy this beautiful and healthy dish!

Around the World #2: Italy – Focaccia and Pizza

sliced focaccia

Freshly baked focaccia

Focaccia is a popular type of bread in Italy and can be found in bakeries everywhere.  Although the appearance and ingredients may vary, focaccia is usually dotted with wells across the top and seasoned with olive oil, herbs and salt.  The same dough can be used to make pizza base.

Although pizza is found throughout Italy, each region has its own specialties.  Pizza Napoletana traditionally has tomatoes and mozzarella and Viennese adds sausage, oregano and oil.  Pizza Capricciosa is usually topped with tomato, fresh mozzarella, artichoke hearts, ham and olives.  Pizza Bianca has no tomato sauce and could have pesto as a substitute.  Wherever they are made, the best are baked in a wood fired oven.

 Dough Recipe

 4 cups of flour (I usually mix 3 parts all-purpose or bread flour with 1 part whole wheat)

2 teaspoons dry instant yeast

1 cup hot water

1 cup cold milk

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sift flour into a large mixing bowl to incorporate air and add yeast to flour.  Mix with a spoon.

Blend water and milk in a measuring pitcher and test the temperature with your finger.  It should be warm to the touch but not too hot.  Add salt, sugar and oil.  Mix liquid into the flour and yeast and stir well.

I use a Kitchen Aid mixer to knead the dough – you can also knead by hand on a floured surface until elastic.  You can tell when the dough is ready by forming a ball and poking lightly with your finger.  The surface should be smooth and spring back lightly when touched.  After kneading, place in a lightly oiled mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until doubled in size.

This is enough dough for a large pizza and a loaf of focaccia.

Tuscan herbs

Drogheria Alimentari Tuscan Herbs

Focaccia

Bread dough

Tuscan herbs (a blend of rosemary, sage, thyme, basil, bay and marjoram)

Olive oil

Kosher salt

After the dough has risen, take one half and form a ball with a smooth top.  Oil baking sheet and place dough on the sheet.  Poke deep holes around the dough with your finger or the end of a wooden spoon and grind Tuscan herb blend over the top.  Pour olive oil into the holes and top the loaf with a sprinkling of kosher salt.

Bake at 450° for 12 minutes, until golden brown.

focaccia baking

Focaccia baking in the oven

Pizza

Form a ball with the other half of dough and roll out dough thinly for crust and place on an oiled pizza pan.  Spread pizza sauce and top with cheese and your choice toppings (suggestions below).

Bake at 450° for 8-12 minutes (depending upon size).

Top with any combination of the following:

Tomato/pizza sauce

Basil pesto

Shredded Mozzarella or Italian Blend cheese

Fresh mozzarella, sliced

Chopped or thinly sliced onion

Chopped bell pepper

Sliced mushrooms

Zucchini, thinly sliced

Sliced tomatoes

Fresh oregano

Fresh basil

Pepperoni, ham, sausage (if desired)

Red pepper flakes

Parmesan

veggie pizza

Veggie Pizza

Around the World #1: Germany and Swabian Apple Bread Pudding

The journey begins where it ended this summer:  in the beautiful Black Forest and Swabian Jura of Southwestern Germany.

While in Stuttgart, we stayed at Campingplatz Cannstatter Wasen, a convenient site wedged between the Neckar river and a vast fairground to the east.  All was quiet when we visited in June, but now it’s festival time and in September and October the Cannstatter Volksfest is in full swing.  The event started in the 1800’s as a one-day harvest festival, but has evolved into a three-week celebration considered to be the second largest beer festival in the world after Munich’s Oktoberfest.

Cannstatter Volksfest near Stuttgart

Cannstatter Volksfest near Stuttgart

It was in Stuttgart that I met Silvi and family for the first time, and when we said goodbye she presented me with a small gift – a cookbook that featured traditional Swabian recipes so that I could remember our visit.  In honor of new family and fond memories, my first recipe is a perfect way to celebrate autumn’s apple crop.

Swabian Apple Bread Pudding (Ofenschlupfer)

4 apples

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon rum

1 teaspoon cinnamon

6 bread rolls or 4-5 slices white bread

1½ cups milk (approximately)

4 tablespoons butter

5 eggs, separated

3 tablespoons sugar

pinch of cinnamon

1/4 cup raisins (optional)

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

3-4 tablespoons ground almonds

butter to garnish, or 2 egg whites and 3 tablespoons of sugar

Ingredients

Preheat oven to 375°.

Peel, quarter and slice apples.  Mix with 3 T. sugar and rum and leave to allow flavors to blend.

Remove crusts from sliced bread or slice rolls into thin slices and moisten with milk.  Beat butter until fluffy and then blend in egg yolks, remaining sugar, cinnamon and ground almonds (I use a mini food processor).  Whisk egg whites separately until stiff.  Fold apple slices and raisins and egg white into the butter/egg yolk mixture.  Grease an 8″ square oven proof pan with butter or cooking spray and sprinkle with bread crumbs.  Layer the bread slices and apple mixture and dot with butter on the top.  Bake the apple pudding for 30-40 minutes at 375° until golden brown.  Serve with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.

Apple Bread Pudding

 

Around the World in 50 Plates: An International Culinary Challenge!

Inspired by a suggestion from my brother-in-law Alejandro as well as a significant upcoming birthday, I am setting out to discover world cuisine one recipe at a time and invite you to come along!  More than willing to get out of my comfort zone, I’m featuring new discoveries along with old favorites.  And I’m challenging you to inspire and help shape the journey!

A fond memory also helped to inspire this project.  Our wedding took place at a friend’s converted one-room schoolhouse and a simple ceremony was followed by a big party.  Instead of requesting the usual expensive gifts, we asked our international friends and family to bring a dish from their homeland.  The result was a truly  memorable meal, prepared and shared with love.

International Food Festival

Vegetarian Food Festival

Twenty four years later, I’m inviting you to join a similar international feast.  Each week I will post a recipe or two from one country and would welcome any suggestions for countries to visit and/or recipes to try.  I’ll also feature guest bloggers to share a recipe or tell a story of a special time, dish or place.  Although it’s easier to stick to readily-available ingredients, your suggestions may prompt a culinary treasure hunt to track down something exotic.  That’s ok, too!  An active collaborator, I look forward to exploring your suggestions and requests and sharing inspiration.

At this point, we’re planning the itinerary, with a list of 50 countries.  The places may be special spots already visited, somewhere on the list of future destinations, your home country or a place that is close to your heart.  Next will come the menu for this memorable, many-course celebration.

Here are the rules:

  • 50 distinct countries
  • 1 recipe or meal from each country
  • Preferably vegetarian
  • Can be a food or beverage
  • Open to all!

Join this international culinary blogfest!  Where shall I go?  What shall I cook?  Feel free to leave your suggestions below.

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