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Serious Heat: What's Your Secret Chili Ingredient?

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[Flickr: House Of Sims]

When winter looms and it's time for those one-pot meals, nothing hits the comfort factor like a big bowl of chili. There's the endless debate over beans—should chili should include them or not?—but I say to each their own. I'm more interested in what secret ingredients you add to your chili for that unique wow factor.

Some months ago, I interviewed Todd Larrabee, who found a club with a long-standing (25 years!) Super Bowl tradition of chili cookoffs. The secret ingredient of this year's winner was grape jam and shrimp. As for Larrabee, he admits he's doctored his chili concoctions with everything from dried fruit to Peppermint Patty candy. But one ingredient that never makes it into his pot? Beans. You gotta draw the line somewhere.

A search on Chowhound revealed other interesting chili add-ins like red wine, tequila, horseradish, dark chocolate and cinnamon, Old Bay, fish sauce, V8 and peanut butter. Personally, no pot of chili of mine is complete without a strong shot of coffee and a hint of chocolate. What about yours?

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