I’ve been refining this recipe for at least eleven years, and I’m pretty sure this is how I’ll make Cincinnati chili (a favorite of my husband Derek’s) from here out, with just a hint of sweet spice and a square of chocolate melted in at the end. How you want to serve it is up to you: Go for the traditional interpretation with spaghetti, beans, and a snowy mound of finely shredded orange cheddar, or just serve it on its own.
Put the tomatoes, onion, garlic, cumin, cloves, allspice, cayenne, a large pinch of salt, and several grindings of black pepper in the slow cooker and use an immersion blender to puree it (tilt the cooker if necessary to keep the blender head submerged).
In a large skillet or sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the beef and cook, turning frequently with a metal spatula and breaking up the pieces, until no longer pink, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander (or put a lid over the pan and pour off the excess liquid and fat). Scrape the beef into the slow cooker and add the cinnamon sticks. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
Stir the chocolate into the chili and let it melt, then season with salt to taste. Put the lid back on and reheat for a few minutes or as long as it takes to set the table and/or prepare any accompaniments.
Make the accompaniments, if you’d like: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add several pinches of salt. Add the spaghetti and cook according to the package instructions, until al dente. While the spaghetti cooks, put the beans in a sieve and dip them into the boiling water for a few seconds to heat; transfer to a small bowl. Drain the spaghetti and put in a bowl. Into another bowl or onto a piece of waxed paper, very finely grate the cheese—you can use the small holes on a box grater or, for even snowier results, a Microplane zester. Tong a nest of spaghetti into shallow bowls, top with the beans, then a huge pile of cheese.
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