I doubt that people passing out samples at the San Antonio Chili Stand at the 1893 World's Fair had any idea what they had started. Chili had been around for nearly 300 years by then, but the peasant dish of slow-cooked beef and chile peppers was about to take off.
After its introduction outside Texas' borders, chili parlors popped up around the United States, providing (mostly) men a spot to gather and enjoy steamy bowls of spiced meat that fell somewhere on the culinary spectrum between soup and stew.
Some chili parlors still exist today (the introduction of hamburger joints pushed them close to extinction, according to the "Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America"), yet it seems that far more chili is cooked at home and enjoyed with friends while watching football. Since Sunday marks the biggest football day of them all -- when the San Francisco 49ers face the Baltimore Ravens at 5:30 p.m. -- I decided to share four chili recipes that will have guests cheering for you, the cook.
While I'm usually a no-bean purist when it comes to making chili, most others I know do not hold chili to such strict standards. So for them I share meat-and-bean recipes for Smoky Pork, Bacon and White Bean Chili and Chipotle Beef Chili.
To please the vegetarians in the crowd, here's a hearty pot of Versatile Vegetarian Chili from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living.
For something in between, there's Chicken Chili with Hominy, a Pam Anderson recipe I've made for years. I audibled with this latest batch, scaling back the hominy and adding a bottle of Samuel Adam's Boston Lager.
Any of these recipes can be perked up with toppings of shredded cheese, sour cream or Greek yogurt, chopped onions, pickled jalapeņo slices, roasted pepitas and crushed tortilla chips.