I’ll give you a whopping three seconds to say who you think makes all the food decisions around here.
One. (I do) Two. (I do) Three. (I do)
You’re right! I do.
The Booze Hound delights in the fact that he has nothing to do with the culinary workings of our life, and I delight in having all. that. power. Muahahah!! But one day, on a trip up to northern Ohio, my second half piped up and said that we had to stop at a Skyline Chili for lunch.
Ummmm, fast food chili? Barf-o-rama.
But for whatever reason- I was just being really nice or I was deliriously hungry (probably the latter because I was okay-ing fast food chili)- I caved and we stopped.
That stop might have been the only time the Booze Hound made a family food decision, but he’s 1 for 1. He’s batting a thousand. It was AWESOME.
Right then and there I became a member of the cult of Skyline devotees. Instead of Kool-Aid, we choose chili.
Skyline is classic Cincinnati chili, which tastes only kind of like ‘regular’ chili. It’s heavy on earthy spices- like cinnamon, allspice, even cloves- with a nice dose of cocoa. These might sound like things that should never, ever, be in a bowl of chili, but they all work together to become way more than individual flavors. It is classically served over spaghetti and topped with minced onion, kidney beans, and lots and lots and lots of cheddar cheese.
Before the hateful comments start flowing in from people who think Cinci chili is blasphemous, thus igniting a war of words that usually ends up with an anti-bean Texan threatening secession from the Union, let me be perfectly clear that you can’t compare Cincinnati chili to any other kind of chili. It’s its own thing. I’m still totally in love with my Ultimate Beef Chili, which proves you don’t have to always pick chili sides. You can love them all.
That being said, I will weigh in on something I have learned from a lot of years of chili-making and eating: chili recipes that are distinctly one kind or another are usually better than ‘crossover’ versions, like a Texas chili with cocoa in it, or too many funky ingredients, like cocoa + chipotle + chorizo + cinnamon + butternut squash… you get the idea. This Cincinnati chili is, to me, classic and authentic.
Ohioans take chili toppings to new levels. Most other Tex-Mex chilis can stand alone very nicely… but it’s kind of a crime to eat Cinci chili without at least one of the classic toppings, aka, you must at least top it with a pile of shredded cheddar. Personally, I leave out the spaghetti and top it with the cheese, kidney beans, and diced onion. If you want to order it this way at Skyline, you tell them you want 5-alarm chili minus the spaghetti. Then watch their heads explode.
- 2 lbs ground beef (I use ground sirloin, or about 90% lean)
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 4 c low-sodium beef stock
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (16-oz) can tomato sauce
- 2½ T chili powder
- 2 T apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2½ T unsweetened cocoa
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- ¼ tsp ground allspice
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- Diced onion
- Canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- LOTS of shredded cheddar cheese (keep it authentic- get the shredded stuff in the bag)
- Cooked spaghetti (I don't serve it over spaghetti, but it's the classic way to serve it)
- Brown the ground beef and onion over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Add broth and the rest of the ingredients (through bay leaf), bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer uncovered over low heat for an hour (see notes if you want the true Skyline consistency). Remove bay leaf, and skim off excess fat (also see notes). Serve with traditional toppings, i.e., spaghetti underneath (which I skip) and onion + beans + LOTS of shredded cheddar on top (which I do not skip).