Merciful God, You are great in compassion and Your tenderness for us is without measure. We ask You to give us today our daily bread, and also provide for the needs of all of Your hungry children around the world. Through Christ Your Son and Our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Mother's Chili and Cincinnati Chili

Like so many women (and men), there are some dishes that my mother makes that I so enjoy I have to make it just like she did. My mom is a good cook, but I really can't say there are a lot of recipes I copy exactly. This chili is one, however, that I never vary. It has the perfect balance of sweet and salty, spicy and hearty. And it has spaghetti in it. Most of you probably think that is pretty strange, but if you're from around Cincinnati, where I'm from, you understand.

Cincinnatians always eat their chili with spaghetti. I'm pretty sure the tradition comes from a really old restaurant in Cincinnati called Empress Chili. I have read that Empress Chili started on a food cart, by a Greek who called his mix of beef, chili powder and cinnamon, served over a plate of spaghetti, chili. Today there are many varieties of Cincinnati chili, my husband's favorite Skyline being one of them. But for most folks, chili with spaghetti is just not chili.

Whether you are eating Cincinnati style chili or regular old beans, tomatoes and beef style chili, folks from the Queen City eat it with spaghetti (if you're a real Cincinnatian, that is). I won't make excuses because that's how I like it. But my mom's chili recipe below can certainly be eaten without spaghetti if that's how you like it. My mom sometimes eats hers without spaghetti and with Fritos on top.

The second recipe for chili posted here, however, cannot and should not be eaten without spaghetti. If you can't get past the fact that this chili has spaghetti in it (not to mention cinnamon), just call it something else. But try it before you completely disregard it. I think it has an unforgettable taste, but some people disagree -- maybe it's an acquired taste that I acquired in my high chair, who knows? My kids love it, though, and so does my husband, and they were all born in central Ohio which, until the last five years or so, didn't touch the stuff.

My Mom's Chili

2 lb. ground beef
1 med. onion, chopped
1 med. can tomatoes
2 - 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
¾ cup ketchup
1 cup water
2 T. worchestershire sauce
2 T. chili powder
1 T. sugar
can chili hot beans (like Brook's or Joan of Arc)
8 oz. spaghetti
shredded cheddar cheese
oyster crackers

Brown meat and onion together until meat is done.
Add remaining ingredients (except spaghetti, cheese and oyster crackers).
Simmer for 2 hours.
Cook spaghetti according to package directions.
Add to cooked chili when ready to serve.
Top with cheese and serve with crackers.


This recipe for Skyline Chili is supposedly the "real" thing given from one of the family's sons to a girlfriend. I kind of doubt that story, but it's pretty close if it's not the real thing. This recipe makes a huge batch. I have never cut it so I can't say if it would be the same. My recommendation is to have a bunch of people over when you make it, if you're not sure you will like it (if they are a bunch of Cincinnati people you're sure to have a hit!). I freeze it in smaller batches, but that's because we eat it a lot (every Saturday). Resist the urge to brown the ground meat. I know that raw meat mixed in water does not look appetizing, but it is crucial for the texture. I made my last batch in the crock pot and it turned out pretty well.

When you serve Skyline chili, you place your spaghetti on the plate like you are serving meatballs and spaghetti. Top it with a big ladle of chili, then top that with finely shredded cheddar (this is what it looks like). That's a "three-way" (spaghetti, chili, cheese). A "four-way onion" is spaghetti, chili, cheese, onion, and a "four-way bean" is spaghetti, chili, cheese, kidney beans. A "five-way" is all five -- spaghetti, chili, cheese, onion, beans.

Oh, and an important aspect of eating Cincinnati chili -- cut a bite with the side of your fork and scoop -- do not twirl. It just messes up your cheese.

Skyline Chili

2 qrt. water
2 t. black pepper
4 lb. ground chuck
1¼ t. red pepper
2½ t. cinnamon
4 T. chili powder
2½ T. ground cumin
2 - 6 oz. cans of tomato paste
3 lrg. onions - chopped very fine
2 T. salt
2 t. Worchester sauce
3½ t. allspice
5 cloves garlic
3 T. cider vinegar
8 bay leaves

spaghetti (make enough for the crowd you're feeding)
finely shredded cheddar cheese
chopped onion (optional)
drained, warm kidney beans (optional)

Crumble raw hamburger into water and then add all the above ingredients.
Bring to boil, then simmer 4 - 5 hours to reduce water content and thicken the chili.
Serve with spaghetti, cheese, onion and kidney beans as described above.



Deborah said...

Oh fun! I love to try different chilli recipes. Will give these a go. When I went to university in Chicago it was always Chillimac, as in Chilli with macaroni, so spaghetti isn't that strange to me!

I've seen Skyline Chilli on your menus many times. Now I know! :)

Barb, sfo said...

I'll be right over.