If you are hosting March Madness parties this month, you will not go wrong serving a big bowl of chili to your guests. CHILI MADNESS – A PASSIONATE COOKBOOK by Jane Butel is an oldie but goodie!  The original book was written in 1980, an update was published in 2008. This is a review of the latter.

In it, you will find EVERYTHING you need to contend with the madness that is NCAA bracket basketball and a houseful of hungry roundball fans!

The book begins with an indepth overview of the origins of chili.  The author reports that the first recipe for chili was mystically created in 1620 by the Spanish Saint, Mary of Agreda – wow!  She then traces the rise in chili’s popularity in America from the cattle drivers, gold prospectors, and chain gangs of the 1800’s… to the Hollywood stars and starlets of the 1930s… to Texas in the 1970s where chili con carne was named the state dish.  Butel provides a chili chart, a heat scale, and a wide range of other “who-knew?” factoids that build a strong base for the rest of the book.

There are seven chapters of recipes – “Beginnings,” “Chili! Chili! Chili!” “Chile Encores,” “Chili Sidekicks,” “Breads and Sop-Ups,” “Sweet Endings,” and “Good Libations.”  I found  five of the seven chapters to be terrific, and two to be less than worthwhile. I’m only going to discuss the five I liked.   The “Chili! Chili! Chili!” Chapter is the backbone of the book – 55 pages of chili recipes ranging from beef to pork to poultry to seafood to wild game to veggie.  You’ll find reds and greens and whites.  You’ll find spicy and mild.  You’ll find recipes from Dallas, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Washington D.C., New York City – and everywhere in between! There’s even a Moroccan Chili that calls for lentils and yogurt as well as something called Australian Dinkum Chili that features wallaroo bacon, chopped kangaroo steak, ground emu ham, and a boomerang!  (Fortunately the author has Americanized this one for us!)  The White Lobster Chili, the Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili, and the Clam and Green Chile Chili are some of the most unusual and delicious recipes in the book.  You will also find many recipes on the more “traditional” side.  With the recipes in this chapter (and the ones in the following chapter), it’s possible to entertain a crowd for each of the 67 games in the tournament with a different chili dish!

Suprisingly, my favorite chapter in the book was “Chili Encores,” essentially recipes for using left over chili!  Yum!  From Migas to Chili Cheesy Grits Soufflé to Green Chili Fettuccine, every recipe is intriguing and inspiring.  There are casseroles, tacos, burritos, tamale/Frito pies, and enchiladas that will make your mouth water.  My favorite is the Portabello Mushroom Chili ‘n Cheese Steak. OMG! This chapter is a treat – maybe the best reason to buy the book!  (PS – it’s available on Amazon!)

The next chapter, “Chili Sidekicks,” is basically an assortment of side dishes.  I don’t usually serve sides with my chili but this chapter has converted me!  There are a number of salads, like Spinach Mango Salad with Lemony Mustard Dressing… And delicious veggies, like Fried Green Tomatoes with Blue Corn Jalapeño Coating… And yummy bean, potato and rice sides.  DELISH!

The “Breads and Sop-ups” chapter is amazing!  Mmmm, mmmm, mmm! The corn breads and muffins, the crusty breads, the focaccia, the garlic sticks… You will want to try them all!

I have mixed feeling about the final chapter, “Good Libations.”  I think beverage accompaniments for chili are pretty intuitive but Ms. Butel does offer some fun ideas that go beyond the obvious.  She offers a variety of margaritas, beers, wine coolers and sangrias that will inspire!

I hope you enjoy CHILI MADNESS! It is available new and used.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *