Cincinnati Grilli

Ever since the family reunion, I’ve been craving Cincinnati chili.  I think I can blame it on the fact that the only time we got Skyline that weekend was at the Indians-Reds game.  And let’s face it, the food at baseball stadiums just isn’t quite up to par.

Cincinnati Grilli

And while I will sacrifice myself by cooking chili for an hour on the stove on even the hottest of summer days, I decided that I’d really rather find an alternative that doesn’t leave the house sweltering for the next four hours.

Dan suggested we make Cincinnati “grilli.”  Made-up words, what? Yes, you can thank him for that name.

I think he meant that we should make it as usual, just in a grill-safe pot outside.

I, on the other hand, thought he meant we should marinate bite-sized pieces of meat with the same seasonings and grill it.

So we came up with a compromise.

A sweet chili compromise.  Or grilli compromise, as the case may be.

Cincinnati Grilli

Cincinnati Grilli


  • 1 pound boneless leg of lamb, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 3 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • For the marinade and sauce:
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 scant teaspoon allspice
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups water


  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the marinade ingredients together until there are no lumps from the tomato paste.  Add the lamb to the bowl, stirring to get sauce on all sides of the meat.  Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 8-10 hours.
  2. Close to cooking time, scrub the potatoes and slice as thin or wide as you'd like your fries to be.  Toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper.
  3. Peel the onion and cut into quarters.  Cut each quarter into 4 equally-sized chunks.
  4. Thread the onions and lamb on kabob skewers, alternating the meat and onions.
  5. Pour the rest of the marinade into a grill-safe saucepan to cook down into sauce.
  6. Preheat the grill.  One side should be on low for the sauce.  Another burner should be set to medium-high for the fries and lamb.
  7. Lay an oiled piece of aluminum foil over the medium-high side of the grill.
  8. Place the saucepan over the low flame to slowly reduce, stirring occasionally.
  9. In the meantime, prepare the fries and lamb.  Cook half of the potatoes over medium high for 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the edges are browned and crispy.  Repeat with the remaining potatoes.
  10. When the fries are complete, carefully brush fresh oil over the aluminum foil.  Cook the lamb kabobs for 5-7 minutes on each side, until cooked through.
  11. By now, the sauce should be done reducing.  It should be thick enough that when you run a spoon through it, it doesn't quickly rush back to fill the empty spot in the pan, as shown above.  Now you're ready to plate!
  12. Mound some of the fries on a plate and top with a portion of the shredded cheese.  Try to keep sneaky hands from stealing the fries.
  13. Using a fork, transfer the meat and onions from one skewer on top of the fries.
  14. Spoon sauce over the meat and fries, and serve.

Cincinnati Grilli 5