Monday, October 26, 2015

Texas versus Cincinnati

It was a chili cookoff weekend in our house.  Using the cookbook Stylish One-Dish Dinners by Linda West Eckhardt and Katherine West DeFoyd, I made Texas chili for dinner on Saturday night and Cincinnati chili on Sunday and we compared the results and decided on our favorites.

I didn't follow the recipes exactly, as both direct you go cook chunks of beef chuck on the stovetop for two hours, which I think results in tough, chewy meat.  Instead, I adapted both recipes for my Dutch oven and cooked our chili all day at low heat in the oven.

I started the Texas chili at 7:00 Saturday morning.  The recipe called for four pounds of meat to be dredged in 1/2 a cup of chili powder.  I buy the chipotle chili powder from Whole Foods (available in the bulk section) and it is hot.  Much hotter than normal chili powder.  I decided to use only 1/4 cup. I seared the chili-dredged beef chuck in batches on high heat.  By the time that was done, the bottom of my Dutch oven was coated with a thick layer of blackened chipotle chili powder.  I deglazed the pan with a can of beer and a plume of pungent steam arose from the pan and I found myself sneezing uncontrollably and then coughing fit to die.  A few minutes later, coughs erupted from the bedrooms upstairs.  Jon came staggering into the kitchen in his underwear, coughing and with streaming eyes and demanded to know what the hell I was cooking.  Seamus was similarly affected but he was more good-natured about it.  I realized I had inadvertently pepper-sprayed my entire household.  I'm sure we're not the first capsicum casualties in a home cooking incident and certainly won't be the last.

After that, the chili settled down and I put it into the 200 ° oven for the day.  Due to the chili powder situation, I changed the recipe quite a bit from the original--added more garlic and eliminated the tabasco sauce and a chopped jalapeno pepper, but with excellent results.  The chili was hot--I had to eat mine with a big mound of salted Greek yogurt to combat the heat--but the meat was as tender as butter and Jon and the kids loved it, but the next night unanimously declared that they preferred the Cincinnati chili.

For the Cincinnati chili, other than using the Dutch Oven method (which involves reducing the amount of liquid and increasing the cooking time) I stuck to the recipe in the book.  You sear the beef chunks, then cook onions and garlic in the same pan you used for the beef.  The spices involved here are more varied than those used in Texas chili: paprika, cumin, coriander, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, oregano, chili powder, vinegar, and molasses.  About fifteen minutes before serving, you add half a pound of spaghetti to the pot and let it soak up the extra liquid.  We ate this with oyster crackers and shredded cheddar.  You're supposed to offer kidney beans as a topping, but I forgot to serve them.  This chili had a kick (2 tablespoons of chipotle chili powder) but it wasn't as hot as the Texas version, and I liked the bite of vinegar, smoothed by the hint of molasses.

Cincinnati Chili

 I love doing cooking experiments like this and we did something similar with shepherd's pie one weekend last weekend.  Any suggestions for other dishes?


  1. "I realized I had inadvertently pepper-sprayed my entire household."

    I'm dying as I read this. Thanks for taking one for the rest of us in the name of the culinary arts.

  2. Fascinating. The one time I had Cincinnati Chili, I did not care for it - but then, it wasn't especially good. You could do this with lots more chili recipes I suppose. What about spaghetti sauces?

    1. I never thought of doing sauce comparisons. My Sicilian sister-in-law taught Jon and me how to make sauce, so we never bother with a recipe. I should start looking at how the rest of the world does it.

  3. I'm sorry, but I can't stop laughing at your third paragraph ... "I had inadvertently pepper-sprayed my entire household." It reminds me of my Dad, who sometimes would get up at 5 AM and urgently start cooking Indian curry, setting off the smoke alarm in his cluster at the retirement home.

    You could try a cook-off for Indian curry vs Thai curry.

  4. It made me laugh that you pepper sprayed your house. I bet your eyes were SORE.