Plenty of great ingredients work well in chili… almost every kind of meat but hamburger is the most popular. Pork, even ham, chicken, turkey work.
Beans can be added or not. Squash, Eggplant, Seeded Cucumbers, Broccoli, Even cauliflower but tomatoes seem to work the best. Any kind… every kind. Jalapeno’s, poblano’s and scotch bonnet peppers are popular as are green, red, yellow and orange peppers. The latter agree with more people but if’s it’s a pepper it will work in chili.
Spices? Yep. all of the standard ones but chili powder is an all around favorite. Cumin is good. Lady Bird Johnson made a great chili called Pedernales Chili with only a few ingredients. If you want it less runny, add some cornstarch in a bit of water.
Any kind of dark sausage but leave the brats for something else.
Many flavors will get lost in chili. It’s a highly flavored dish and far from French or similar so-called sophisticated foods.
What to accompany it? Beer. Strong red wine, Rhone is good. Or a California Merlot or a good Cabernet work really well. Skip the whites. They will get lost with the intense flavor of chili.
Cheese. Forget the brie. Get a strong cheddar.
Don’t waste your time, effort and expense with ingredients that aren’t strongly flavored. Espresso powder, cocoa powder are good. Add beer , wine, coffee to the chili but don’t thin it out. It it’s too thin bulk it up by adding more stuff or use the cornstarch.
If some of the guests don’t like strong flavors make two different kinds. Slow cookers and crock pots work bu do do large wok type pots and they’re faster because they can boil off some of the water and thicken the mix.
Don’t be afraid of failure. No one really knows what chili is supposed to taste like because there are so many different ways to make it so just go ahead and mix the stuff together. It’s so hard to make chili bad… it can be burned. It can cook so long that it becomes just mush but it takes a lot of effort to ruin chili.
Here’a another tip…. get some great bread or rolls. They can take a good chili into greatness.
It works great during the cold winter season and it works during BBQ season. It’s a real can’t miss dish… and it really American.