Cincinnati Chili – “Four Way”

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I was always intrigued by Cincinnati Chili, I kind of loved the way the chili was served over a plate of steaming hot spaghetti instead of with just chips or cornbread, so a while back I finally decided to give it a try. I’m not 100% sure where I initially came across this particular recipe however, I did find that *most* of the recipes online were almost all exact. In my research I had been seeing a lot of references to “Skyline Chili” and came to learn that Skyline is actually a chain of chili restaurants across the Cincinnati area that are famous for their chili. Basically, most of the Cincinnati Chili recipes you’ll find online are a hacked version of the famous Skyline one.

This chili was excellent, the meat was very tender and flavorful and it was definitely a hearty dish. Interestingly, instead of just browning the meat and then adding in the spices this recipe call for simmering the meat for about a half hour so that it breaks apart into small pieces and softens. It sounds (and actually looks) pretty gross but trust me, don’t skip this step. Cooking the meat this way really makes a difference in the final product. Be aware that this is a chili that you will need to make ahead of time. Once cooked it’s refrigerated overnight so that the next day you can scrape away all of the excess fat which makes for a leaner, less greasy tasting chili.

Cincinnati Chili has a very interesting flavor profile, especially if you’re use to traditional southwest chili recipes which tend to be hot and spicy. While this chili has some heat, there is also a sweetness and warm spice flavor which comes from the chocolate, cloves, and cinnamon. I recommend cutting back a little on the cinnamon and cloves, the first time I made it I followed the recipe “as is” however, I found that for me the cinnamon and clove flavor was a little too overpowering. The next time I used just an 1/8 tsp of cloves and a 1/4 tsp of cinnamon and I liked that ratio much better. The nice thing about any chili recipe is that you can play around with the spices and seasonings until you find a flavor and level of heat that pleases your palate.

When ordering chili in Cincinnati there is a very specific ordering code you must adhere to. For this recipe I served it “four way” which means chili over spaghetti topped with grated Cheddar cheese and diced onions. I also added a handful of crushed oyster crackers to each plate which is also common with this dish. I loved the way the crunchy raw onions, salty crackers, and sharp cheddar cheese all played together with the chili and spaghetti. It was a very flavorful and yummy dish. When making (or ordering) your Cincinnati Chili be sure to specify how you’d like it served.

The Cincinnati “Skyline” Chili Ordering Code

  • 1-way: just chili
  • 2-waychili served over spaghetti
  • 3-waychili over spaghetti with grated Cheddar cheese
  • 4-waychili over spaghetti with grated Cheddar cheese and diced onions
  • 5-waychili over spaghetti with grated Cheddar cheese, diced onions, and beans

Ingredients

  • 1 quart cold water
  • 2 lbs ground beef 
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes 
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 whole bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt

Instructions

Add the beef and water to a 4-quart pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until the ground beef is in very small, tender pieces, about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to break up the meat.

Add in all of the seasonings and spices. Simmer on low heat, uncovered, for 3 hours. Continue to add more water to the pot if the chili becomes too thick and to avoid the chili burning to the bottom of the pot.

Once the chili is done, refrigerate it overnight. Before serving the next day, scrape the layer of fat from the top and discard then warm the chili up over medium heat.

 

 

Braised Short Ribs

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A couple of years ago my husband and I went out to dinner for our anniversary and I had braised short ribs and it was love at first bite! The meat was fork tender, the flavor was deep and rich, and it was simply heavenly. I had always said I’d like to try making them at home because it seemed so simple and now, almost 2 years later, I finally got around to doing just that.

I did a little research into different short rib recipes and while they were all fairly similar, I decided to go with  Gordon Ramsay’s Slow Cooked Short Ribs and adapted it only slightly. They were so simple to make and they came out absolutely perfect. The short ribs were so tender and flavorful and the wine sauce was out of this world!

In the original recipe Gordon calls for a pancetta lardons and chestnut mushroom topping for the short ribs. I didn’t have time to look for actual pancetta lardons so instead, I used regular sliced pancetta which worked out fine and imparted a really nice flavor to the meal. Also, I don’t care for mushrooms so I decided to caramelize sweet Vidalia onions in a little butter and use those on top of the short ribs in place of the mushrooms. I thought it was very good however, I LOVE caramelized onions so the substitution was a good one for me.

Short ribs are a low, slow cook so save this recipe for a day when you’re not pressed for time. The recipe calls for a cook time of 3 to 4 hours, my short ribs were perfectly cooked right at the 3 hour and 15 minute mark, in a 350 degree oven. I served the meat over a side of homemade garlic mashed potatoes.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil, for frying
  • 6-8 thick cut meaty beef short ribs
  • 1 head of garlic, cut in half horiontally
  • 1 heaping tbs of tomato paste
  • 1 (750ml) bottle of red wine (I used Bogle Merlot but any red wine is fine)
  • 4 1/4 cups beef stock (NOT broth)
  • 1/3 lb pancetta lardons OR sliced pancetta
  • 1/2 lb chestnut mushrooms, trimmed and halved OR 3 Vidalia onions, sliced
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a deep sided roasting tray or large, deep pan over medium to medium high heat. Season the short ribs well with salt and pepper then fry them until they are really well browned on all sides, about 10-15 minutes total cooking time.

Add the halved garlic head, cut side down, pushing it to the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato paste and heat for a minute or two to cook it out. Pour in the entire bottle of wine to deglaze the pan, scrape up any meat bits from the bottom and stir. Bring to a boil and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10-15 minutes. The wine will become very thick and syrupy after reducing. Add the beef stock to the pan, making sure the ribs are nearly covered. Bring to a boil again and then baste the short ribs with the juices.

Cover the roasting tray with foil or a lid and cook in the oven for 3-4 hours, basting every now and again, until the meat is tender and falling away from the bone.

About 10 minutes before the short ribs are about to come out, fry the pancetta for 2-3 minutes or until crispy. Add in the mushrooms and cook for another 4-5 minutes until tender. Drain off any excess fat.

If you prefer to make the caramelized onions – Saute the sliced onions in 5-6 tbs unsalted butter over medium low to medium heat. Season with a little salt and pepper and let the onions cook down until they are richly browned, about 20-25 minutes. Move the onions to the side of the pan and add the pancetta, cooking until crispy. Once the pancetta is done, mix the two and drain off any excess fat.**

When the short ribs are ready, remove from oven, transfer the meat to a serving dish and cover. Remove the garlic from the pan and press through a sieve. Spoon off any excess fat from the cooking liquid then strain through a sieve as well and mix with the garlic. If the sauce its too thin, reduce the cooking liquid by heating it on the stovetop for about 10-15 minutes.

Serve the short ribs topped with the pancetta mixture, a hefty drizzle of the wine sauce, and garnished with fresh parsley.

**Tip** – Instead of using a sieve, I used a gravy separator to press the garlic and bits through as well as separate out the greasy oil from the rich wine sauce. It worked really well and the resulting sauce was extremely rich and flavorful, it also did not need to be reduced down any further.

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Meatloaf – Pioneer Woman Style

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For years and years I’ve used my same “go-to” meatloaf recipe that I love. It’s beefy, has a nice onion flavor and everyone in my house loves it. But yesterday, I decided to go out on a limb and try something completely different after I came across this meatloaf recipe from The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. I love her cookbooks, she has so many meals and desserts that are interesting and delicious. This particular meatloaf recipe is from, “The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes From An Accidental Country Girl“, her first cookbook. You can get this cookbook on Amazon, just click below!

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl

At first I was a little hesitant mainly because I detest ketchup and this recipe called for a sauce made from ketchup. I was actually pleasantly surprised though, after the meatloaf was cooked the sauce took on a really nice sticky, spicy BBQ quality which added great flavor to the meatloaf. The one thing I’d do differently the next time I make this meal would be to run the bacon slices down the length of the meatloaf as opposed to running them across and tucking them under. The top of the bacon was delicious and nicely cooked but the ends of the bacon that were tucked under the meatloaf remained barely cooked and “blubbery” which I found to be inedible. There is nothing worse than inedible bacon!!!

Overall, this was a really good meatloaf and was well received by my family. It has more of a meatball flavor rather than the beefy onion flavor I’m use to from a meatloaf due in part to the parsley and Parmesan cheese. Also, because soaked bread was used instead of breadcrumbs the meatloaf had a really nice texture and structurally, it was perfect! It sliced beautifully and stayed together even after only letting it rest for about 15 minutes. Can’t wait to eat the leftovers today!

Ingredients

For the meatloaf

  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 slices of bread
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp seasoned salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 8-12 thin bacon slices

For the tomato sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 6 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • Dash or two of hot sauce

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the milk over the bread until the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the beef, milk soaked bread, Parmesan cheese, salt, seasoned salt, black pepper, and parsley. Pour in the beaten eggs and with clean hands, mix until combined.

Form the meat mixture into a loaf shape and place on top of a broiler pan which will allow the fat from the meat and bacon to drain away. Line the bottom of the broiler pan with aluminum foil for easier clean up.

Lay the bacon slices across the top of the meatloaf and tuck the ends underneath.

Next, make the tomato sauce. Combine the ketchup, brown sugar, dry mustard and hot sauce. Mix well.

Pour 1/3 of the tomato sauce over the top of the meatloaf and spread. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove meatloaf from the oven, pour another 1/3 of the tomato sauce over the top and spread. Place back in oven and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for about 15 minutes. Serve the remainder of the tomato sauce on the side.

**NOTE** – Oven temps vary so adjust your cooking time accordingly. I cooked this meatloaf for an additional 20 minutes and it came out beautifully. Generally speaking, I think an hour is a little too short on time for a meatloaf of this size. 

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