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Chili Madness: A Passionate Cookbook

Book cover for Chili MadnessChili Madness: A Passionate Cookbook, written by the undisputed Queen of New Mexican cooking, Jane Butel, is much more than just a cookbook about bowls of heat. It’s a veritable celebration of cooking meat (with and without beans) with chiles of every stripe and heat level.

Jane Butel first wrote this classic bestseller in 1980. This new version, published in 2008, is even better. And the timing couldn’t be better. Chili is a hearty, filling meal made with healthy, cost-effective ingredients that fit perfectly for today’s cost-conscious cooks.

The chili recipes in Chili Madness — and there are 52 of them — offer more variations on this dish than you ever thought possible. There’s a chili for every taste. Try Buzzard’s Breath Chili, a thick brew of ground chuck, red chile, with masa harina that makes it a thick, chewy chili. Or how about A Red Chili Nightmare, a stew of beef, pork sausage, and a terrifying 1-1/2 cups of crushed caribe chile, that’s tamed a bit with blanched almonds and chocolate. Or maybe your taste in chili is more nontraditional. Check out White Lobster Chili, made with lobster tails, kale or spinach, fish stock, and cannellini beans, all heated with the tiny pequin quebrado chile. Or try Clam and Green Chile Chili, with chorizo sausage and clams, potatoes, corn, and green chiles. And if you’re tongue can’t take the heat, Jane’s even got chili recipes for you. Check out her First Love Chili or Gringo Chili, recipes that’ll give you all the flavor without torching your tongue.

Even vegetarians can rejoice because Jane offers veggies a number of recipes without meat. Her Butternut Squash Chili, is made with one of the most nutritious of all squash varieties, and her Black Bean Chili creates a flavorful dish around black beans and kale. Spicy Mexican Tortilla Chili is made withbutternut squash, Swiss chard, and garbanzo beans, all grilled to bring out their sweetness. Her Vegetarian Chili is filled with healthful, flavorful vegetable, including onions, garlic, celery, carrots, bell peppers, and tomatoes, thickened with bulgur and spiced with red chile.

Many of Jane’s chili recipes, collected over many years, come from friends and colleagues, some of them famous. You can make Pedernales River Chili, a favorite of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Or Chili a la Franey, devised by well-known chef and author Pierre Franey. With all of the recipes, Jane has included interesting, personal comments that give readers insights into each dish and make you feel like you’re sitting in her kitchen having a little chat about chili recipes.

Got leftover chili? Jane devotes an entire chapter to Chile Encores. She offers  everything from Chili Pizzas, to Chili Farfalle and Fettuccine to Chili and Cheese Steaks.

Jane doesn’t just stop with chili. She includes delectable starters, sides, desserts, and drinks to go along with your bowl of delicious heat. Many of them, of course, use Jane’s beloved chile. She offers New Mexico Tempura, a Southwest twist on this favorite Japanese dish. Oaxaca Bites, an interesting combination of beans, Mexican cheese, sour cream, jalapenos, and tortillas, is Jane’s bite-sized version of the classic Mexican dish clayudas. Her sides are pefect chili combos – Jicama Veggie Slaw, Apple-Blue Cheesse Slaw, Crispy Cilantro Coleslaw, Blue Cheese Potato Salad, Asparagus with Gorgonzola, Grilled Chile-Lime Corn on the Cob, and more.

She offers a Breads and Sop-Ups chapter that’ll have you eager to try recipes like Jalapeno Corn Sticks, Blue Corn Jalapeno Muffins, Bacon Crumble Cornbread, Indian Fry Bread, Bear Paw Bread, and others.

Desserts, both spicy and not, are sure to intrigue. Jane offers Hot Fudge Souffles with Dulce de Leche Ice Cream, Double-chocolate Farmer’s Cake, and Applesauce Cake with Creamy Frosting. If you’re ready to put a little heat with your sweet, try Hot Devil’s Food Cake, spiced up with a bit of caribe chile, or Spicy Chocolate Chile Cupcakes, deep rich cakes paired with red chile.

And you can wash it all down with Jane’s interesting margaritas (Prickly Pear, Berry Berry), Chile Beer, and even a couple of selections for non-drinkers.

She also offers a great section on where to get some harder-to-get ingredients like blue corn flour, as well as where to get more information on chili and chiles.

If you know someone who’s a lover of delicious ingredients all flavored with the reds and greens, offer them Jane Butel’s Chili Madness. They (and you) won’t be disappointed.

Chili Madness by Jane Butel, 204 pages, Workman Books, 2008, $12.95.
It’s available at Amazon or from Jane Butel directly at

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Bobbie Hasselbring

RFT founder and the website's former editor-in-chief, Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. She's been an award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook.

3 thoughts on “Chili Madness: A Passionate Cookbook

  1. Susan Hensley

    We have had cookbook for 30 years we love it! We are away from cookbook and I would like to make gringo chili but, I unsure of the seasonings amounts cumin, chili powder, and oregano

    1. Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT EditorBobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor Post author

      Hi Susan,
      Thanks for writing. We’re happy to help. Jane Butel’s recipe for ‘Gringo chili,’ which she also calls Georgia Chain Gang Chili calls for: 1 cup dry burgundy, 1/2 t. dried thyme; 2 bay leaves, 4 med-sized cloves of garlic chopped, 1/2 t. black pepper, 3 lbs beef coarsely ground, 3 lbs. extra lean beef coarsely ground, 2 whole skinless boneless chicken breasts, salt, 2 TBS veg oil (not canola), 2 med onions chopped, 3 large boneless pork chops (or 1 sm pork roast– 2 1/2 lbs.) fat trimmed, 1/4-1 cup ground mild red chile, 1 t. cayenne, 1 t. Mexican oregano, 1/2 t. cumin, dash crushed rosemary, 1 1/2 cu Italian tomatoes, 1 can (16 oz) tomato sauce, 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce with jalapenos.

      You’ve made this dish before, so I don’t need to tell you what to do with all those ingredients. Write and let us know how the chili turns out. Cheers! — Bobbie, RFT Editor

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