Nature's first green is gold once again. The newly emerging leaves have left the hills around the house a riot of chartreuse, gold, mint, and pink that rival fall in my opinion. Daffodils and forsythias are in full bloom in our front flower beds. All the lettuces showed up today, and the peas are a little over an inch tall. The neighbors took down all but one tree in their backyard, so we have a whole new world of possibilities for the three back garden beds.
About a year ago a friend of mine from the Midwest posted a recipe for Cincinnati Skyline Chili. It has quickly become a favorite of our family, but that's not why I'm including it in this letter.
Skyline Chili is quite possibly the perfect food to serve young families (especially those with picky eaters!) when they come for dinner.
Skyline Chili is served as 6 separate components: Chili, spaghetti, finely grated cheddar, diced raw onions, beans, and oyster crackers. In the Skyline restaurants in Ohio you can also order hot dogs or baked potatoes as the base instead of spaghetti. I like to make a serving bar with the toppings on the kitchen counter, but you could also take orders, Cincinnati-style. Add a tray with cut up veggies and a couple of toddler friendly fruits, and you've got a meal that will appeal to kids of all ages.
The two year olds usually go straight for the spaghetti, cheese, and crackers. School aged kids appreciate the sauce separate from their spaghetti, and even the hungriest teen guys will leave with a full stomach. Special diets like low-carb, low-fat, or vegetarian are easily accommodated with this meal, too.
The star of the show, Cincinnati-style chili, isn't like anything most people (at least in our neck of the woods) have ever tasted, but it's not scary-unfamiliar either. The sauce is a cross between chili and a bolognese, but the Greek seasonings add a sweet depth of flavor that's hard to beat. The recipe calls for chilling overnight and reheating, which makes entertaining day a snap.
Cincinnati "Skyline" Chili1 quart cold water
2 lbs ground beef
2 cups crushed tomato
2 yellow onions, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire
1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tsp cayenne (or Ancho chile powder for lots of flavor without the heat)
1 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 whole bay leaf
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp. salt.
Add beef and water to a 4 quart pot. Bring to a simmer (not a boil) while stirring until the ground beef is in very small pieces. Simmer for 30 minutes and add all the rest of the ingredients.
Simmer on low, uncovered, for 3 hours. Add water as needed if chili becomes too thick.
Refrigerate overnight, and the next day remove the layer of fat from top before reheating and serving.
Finely shredded cheddar (@ least 1 cup per person)
Cooked Kidney Beans (rinse and drain if using canned)
1-way: Just the chili
2-way: Chili over spaghetti
3-way: Chili over spaghetti, and finely grated cheddar
4 -way: Chili over spaghetti, cheese, and onions
5-way: Chili over spaghetti, cheese, onions, and beans
All "ways" are served with oyster crackers
It's always a bit of a challenge to serve meals with broad appeal, especially in the winter when you don't have the "cookout" to rescue you. I hope this recipe will give you the confidence to invite in a family you might not otherwise choose to entertain.
Bless and be a blessing!