Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Is Cincinnati in Greece?

     I was born in Cincinnati. Skyline Chili is famous there. It is not your typical American-Tex-Mex Chili. It is more delicate, aromatic, sublime. It is a mix between what we think of as chili and perhaps spaghetti. There are various names for it...Empress Chili, Greek Chili, Skyline Chili, Cincinnati Chili...I was raised on it. My Dad was the Master of this meal. Mom had the night off when we ate "Greek Chili." It was usually on the weekend because Dad would make almost a production out of it, simmering it in the pot for hours. It would drive us kids crazy. We couldn't wait until it was finished.

     When Bruce and I married, and I served it to Emily and Sharon, they weren't sold on it at first. There are different spices in it, including cinnamon and allspice. Do not let that throw you. This stuff is, well, as Dad described it, "Beautiful!" Emily and Sharon didn't think so, but dutifully ate dinner whenever it was served. About two years into our marriage Emily took a High School trip to Greece. What a wonderful experience for a young person! I did not expect one of her comments when she returned home, "They served your Chili there!" She was hooked; Sharon, too. It was true, the street-side vendors doled out bowls of pasta ladelled with my chili! Well, it was their chili...somehow Cincinnati got a hold of the recipe (I'm sure from Greek imigrants) and a tradition was borne.

We found a Skyline Chili in Columbus

Yes, it promotes peace...or nirvana

Even babies love it

Teenagers love it

Just crazy for it

     Don't think of it like American Chili. Don't think of it like Italian Spaghetti. This is a unique recipe and experience! It does take a little time, but it is well worth it. Leftovers are even better the next day! There are individual recipes and I have heard that many include chocolate--my Dad's never did and so I don't know the difference. Dad wrote his recipe down long ago. I still have the old, stained index card:

 "Empress Chili"

2 lbs ground beef (I find 80-85% lean the best)
1 toe garlic (that's what Dad called them, otherwise "clove"), chopped fine
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp ground Cinnamon (start with that, but I use 2)
1 tsp ground Allspice
2 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
1 quart water
4 medium onions, chopped fine
1 Tb white vinegar
3 Tbs good quality Chili Powder; I use McCormick's, from Baltimore
1/2 tsp red pepper
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
2 bay leaves

Put the ground beef into the pot with the water. Chop it and mash the meat to break up any clumps. This chili has a smooth texture. Add all of the rest of the ingredients and simmer for two to three hours. Be careful not to let it burn; stir regularly. Most of the water will evaporate but the final product will be decidedly waterier than spaghetti sauce.
I love the Pampered Chef meat chopper tool for this
After cooking a few hours

Serve over spaghetti noodles (called two-way), topped with shredded cheddar (three-way), and chopped onions (four-way). I think five-way is with hot peppers? Cincinnatians chime in here, please. Dad always served saltines as well, and we'd crush them on top. We just had some for dinner again tonight. Oh, served on a hotdog it makes the absolute best chili-dog.

Jim loves onions in his

The Greeks must have created this with the mythical gods in mind. It is heavenly!

Kali Orexi!
(Bon Appetit in Greek)

The Abbey Farm Cooks


  1. five way is
    1. Chili
    2. Over spaghetti
    3. With Cheese, and
    4. Onions, and
    5. Kidney Beans

    HOT PEPPERS???? Although I love hot peppers, they have no place on Cincinnati Chili.

    With love....
    and a bit of drooling now,

    Your oldest brother

  2. Thanks, Al!
    Beans! OK, I just don't remember seeing beans. That was one thing I liked about it--no beans! Dad tied up a spice bag of peppercorns, allspice, bay leaves and chili peppers. It was sometimes a little spicy to me. That may be why I thought red peppers or hots.

  3. Just found your blog. I love it. And I also love Skyline Chili. My little family here in Cincinnati eats it regularly. mmmmm. Almost tempted to make a midnight snack...

  4. "Little stay at home momma,"
    Thank you so much! I hope you do try the recipe. I think it's very close, but most of all, it's what I grew up with and we just love it. It's worth making any time (as long as you don't mind staying up a few hours!).
    You understand time constraints with staying at home, but I hope to post more recipes regularly.
    I mostly write on I couldn't find a user friendly way to add tabs (one for "Dry Socks" as well as other ideas) so I made it a separate blog, linked to each other. I'll keep working at it; blogging is so new to me and it's astounding what I'm finding online!
    Thank you again for reading and posting!