Chili: Even Manly Men Can Cook it and Still Feel Manly
Originally published in fine newspapers in March 2005
I do 95% of the cooking at my house but leave most of the baking to my wife. There are a few things that are a bit too “girly” for me to do. I neither bake nor decorate sugar cookies and can’t see myself making tiny cucumber and cream cheese tea sandwiches. I’m comfortable with nearly everything else. There is another breed of men who draw the line differently and will cook for their friends and family only when it involves meat and fire.
Like ribs and steak, chili is a dish safe enough for even the manliest of men to prepare. Maybe it is the image of firefighters’ five-alarm versions, the spicy heat of the dish, or maybe it’s that making chili, like grilling, is a good excuse to drink beer. Whatever the reason, a request for a pot of chili can get many men into the kitchen.
There are a great many variations of chili. One of my favorites is Cincinnati-style. This dish gets its distinctive taste from cocoa powder, cinnamon, and a few other non-traditional spices. According to Cincinnati folklore this version came into being when a young chef from Macedonia arrived in Cincinnati and opened a chili stand. He added spices from his background. Traditional Cincinnati chili does not include beans. I break from tradition and include beans in my recipe. Here it is:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound lean ground pork
1 pound lean ground beef
3 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
4 tablespoons chili powder
2 whole bay leaves
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon oregano
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 can (28 oz) pureed or crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons hot sauce Tabasco or Franks)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
4 tablespoons white vinegar
2 16-ounce cans of light kidney beans
Heat to medium-high a 12-quart Dutch oven or heavy stock pot and add the oil. Sauté the pork, beef, onions, garlic, cumin seeds, and chili powder until the meat is brown and the onions translucent. Drain any fat.
Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for one and a half hours. Water may need to be added as it simmers. This recipe should serve about eight.
Although it is not necessary I use, Tabasco’s chipotle hot sauceand a smoked chili powder. The results are a sweet-smokiness to the chili. Smoked chili powder may not be easy to find. I get mine online here.
I like this chili just by itself. There are several Cincinnati-style serving variations. A “two way” is served on spaghetti. Add grated cheddar cheese for “three way” and chopped onions for “four way.”
Chili, whether it is of the Cincinnati variety or not, is a great winter dish. So, manly men, don’t limit your culinary pursuits to fair weather. Warm up the kitchen and the bellies of your friends and family with this hearty meal. Let me know if you give this recipe a try