Written by April Reinhardt (last updated April 8, 2019)
My father introduced me to Cincinnati-style chili when I was a pre-teen by taking me to the Camp Washington Chili Parlor in Camp Washington on Colerain Avenue. Dad ordered a 3-way for me that day, with a phony coney, and I've been hooked ever since. The chili parlor is still slinging chili, 24-hours a day, six days a week, and has been since 1940. Try this recipe and you'll come very close to experiencing the greatest Cincinnati chili ever made. The key is the combination of spices with chocolate. And if you're wondering what a phony coney is, it's a short hot dog bun without the hot dog, topped with chili, raw onions, and cheese. Now THAT'S good eatin'!
Use a large stockpot or crock pot to simmer the chili. This recipe makes about 12 servings, depending on whether you have a 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, or 5-way chili. Peel the onion, chop it on a cutting board, and scrape it into a large skillet. Wash and clean the celery, chop it, and add it to the skillet with the onion. Break the ground beef into the skillet and cook over medium heat until brown and then drain the fat by dumping the mixture into a colander, and then dump it into your stockpot or crock pot.
Use your hands or a potato masher to break the ground beef down to the smallest pieces possible (to the consistency of hot-dog chili). Open the canned foods and add to the pot, un-drained, and turn the heat to simmer. Add all of the rest of the ingredients to the pot, except for the chocolate and garlic. Melt the chocolate in your microwave oven and add to the pot, and then peel, break, and mince the garlic and add it to the pot. Stir the chili thoroughly. Increase the temperature to medium-low if using your stovetop, and to medium if using a crock pot. Cover and cook for at least seven hours, stirring occasionally.
After seven hours of cooking, increase the temperature to high on your crock pot, or medium-high on your stovetop, uncover, and cook for one hour, stirring quite often. To serve a 1-way, use just the chili. A 2-way is chili over spaghetti. A 3-way is chili over spaghetti with your choice of red kidney beans, onions, or shredded cheddar cheese. A 4-way is chili over spaghetti with red kidney beans, topped with raw chopped onions. And a 5-way is all of those things, topped with shredded cheddar cheese.
Don't forget to serve up a phony coney, too! Use 12-inch hot dog buns, cut in half, wrapped in a damp paper towel and steamed in the microwave for 20 seconds, and then fill with chili, raw onions, and a mound of shredded cheddar cheese.
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