I’ve been nostalgic lately and not sure why but memories of my childhood and home and friends from the past seem to be flooding in lately. Maybe it’s having heard from some fellows I went to college with (true to form, they were all together drinking!) or maybe even that this last week saw my father turn 89 and my brother become 60. In any event it’s also had me thinking of my young family, those two adorable girls and some of the fun times we had when they were children.
I’m originally from St. Louis but when my husband and I had only been married a couple of years he was offered a great job in North Carolina and off we went on a grand adventure. Our only child was a dog named Heather and the notion of moving to the south was different and exciting for both of us with such strong Midwestern roots. We bought our first home in NC and both of our children were born there so it was with a heavy heart that 10 years later I agreed to move again to Denver, Colorado.
The climate was hard to adjust to…not just the dry air but a bareness that seemed the polar opposite of North Carolina where we lived on an acre lot in a neighborhood which had basically been cut out of a forest of trees. Homes were built without destroying those trees so our surroundings were lush and green. Our new home in a suburb of Denver was at most 1/5 of an acre with no grass and no trees and they would not be planted for months after our move in late fall. Add missing some of the best friends I had ever had to dealing with the exhaustion of adjusting to living at altitude and I was ready to bolt and run back to North Carolina in a heartbeat!
Luckily our neighborhood was filled with a lot of transplants and I soon started to meet a lot of other moms in the neighborhood; mostly through my kids and my volunteering at their school. I quickly became fast friends with Elaine and our daughters, both named Emily, also became best of buds.
Elaine and her family were from Cincinnati, Ohio and though we shared Midwestern roots, we also were able to share with each other some food traditions unique to our own area. I introduced her to Gooey Butter Cake and she shared Cincinnati Chili with me. I’m not sure I would have ever made this chili based on the ingredient list. Cinnamon? Cloves? Really? But my taste buds were introduced before I saw those ingredients, the spaghetti and cheddar cheese were irresistible and I’m glad Elaine shared this food tradition from her hometown because it’s been a favorite ever since.
The recipe Elaine had, like others, is an attempt to recreate the dish from the iconic home of Cincinnati Chili, Skyline Chili. The original owner’s Greek roots can clearly be seen in the unique blend of spices including cinnamon, cloves and cocoa. That’s right! Other secrets to this recipe include the initial braise of the meat in water, the long slow cooking and the overnight refrigeration, which allows all the flavors to meld (and sure makes it easy to remove any excess fat).
Skyline serves their chili five different ways but we’ve always been a fan of Number 3…served over spaghetti with shredded cheese. And always with oyster crackers! Wishing Elaine and the Emily’s were here now for this food trip down memory lane.
- 1 quart cold water
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 2 cups crushed tomato
- 2 onions, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 whole bay leaf
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauceWe like ours served with:
- Cooked spaghetti - 1 lb for 6 servings
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese - I had a blend of white cheddar, sharp cheddar and mild cheddar. Loved it.
- Oyster crackers
- Put spaghetti on serving plate, top with chili and then generously top chili with shredded cheese.
- Add water and beef to a large skillet or pot. Bring to a simmer while stirring until the ground beef is in very small pieces. Simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add all the rest of the ingredients and simmer on low, uncovered, for 3 hours. Add water as needed if the chili becomes too thick.
- Refrigerate the chili overnight; remove the layer of fat from the top before reheating and serving.