Chili cookbook bigger, better

February 11, 2009|By GAIL CIAMPA / The Providence Journal

The time is just right to take a look at "Chili Madness" by Jane Butel. The days are cold and the dish is a hearty way to warm the body and soul. You might have a recipe on hand. But what if you don't want one with beef? Or you don't want meat at all? Or you want a newfangled version? This is the place to go.

A Tex-Mex cook, Butel originally published "Chili Madness: A Passionate Cookbook" in 1980 and sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Now 29 years later, she has updated this second edition (Workman Publishing, $12.95) with 130 new recipes. There are vegan options, lobster chilis and other interesting options like cookout chili.

The book also offers recipes for breads (think Indian Fry Bread), desserts (Applesauce Cake with Creamy Frosting and Spiced Walnuts), drinks (Berry Berry Margaritas) and sides (Guadalajara-style Vegetable Salad). Appetizers make an appearance, too, including hot (as in spicy) pigs in blankets and Double-Chile Deviled Eggs.


It's one-stop shopping for a menu for a party or a cozy dinner.

Butel owns and runs a cooking school in New Mexico and has published more than 15 cookbooks. She writes a comprehensive guide to all things chili. There's a look at chili then (who knew a nun was behind the first recipe for chili con carne) and now (more than 1 million people attend chili cook-offs around the world. She explains regional variations from Cincinnati, Louisville and Kansas City. There's a primer on chile peppers, the heart and soul of the dish. Understand their heat and use and you'll make a fine chili, my friend.

But mostly there are recipes, all the originals from Butel's 1980 cookbook and the new ones -- some of which come from the winners of those chili competitions.

White lobster chili

2 lobster tails (6 to 8 ounces each), fresh or frozen (see cook's note)
2 teaspoons butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (not canola)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch fresh kale or spinach, well washed and cut into 1-inch-wide ribbons (about 2 cups)
2 cans (15 ounces each) cannelloni, Great Northern beans or navy beans, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons pequin quebrado (ground, hot, red chile)
3 cups chicken broth or fish stock

Preheat the broiler. If you are using an electric broiler, position the rack 3 to 4 inches from the heat; if using a gas broiler, position the rack 1 inch from the heat.

Using a sharp, heavy knife or kitchen shears, cut down the underside of each lobster tail all the way through the meat and almost to the upper shell. Spread 1 teaspoon of the butter on the exposed meat of each lobster tail. Place the tails shell side down, on a small-rimmed baking sheet. Broil until the lobster meat just turns white and is no longer translucent and the shell is red, 3 to 4 minutes. Be careful not to overcook.

Set the lobster tails aside until they are cool enough to handle. Then pull the meat out of the shells and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Set it aside.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the kale, cover the pot and cook until the greens are soft, about 15 minutes (about 3 minutes if using spinach). Add the beans, pequin quebrado and stock, and simmer uncovered to marry the flavors, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.

Stir the lobster into the vegetable mixture and cook until it is heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Cook's note: If using frozen lobster, thaw it in the refrigerator for a day; or if you need it sooner, thaw it in cold water until the flesh is somewhat soft, about 2 hours.

First-love chili

1 tablespoon lard
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 medium-size cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound lean beef, coarsely ground
2 tablespoons pure, ground, red chile (hot or mild, or a combination to taste)
1 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) plum tomatoes, chopped, liquid reserved
1 small bay leaf
1 small stick cinnamon
2 whole cloves
3 cups water
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 can (16 ounces) red kidney beans, rinsed and drained.

Melt the lard in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the meat to the pot. Break up any lumps with a fork and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is evenly browned, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the chile, celery salt, cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of the cumin, the basil, 1 teaspoon salt, the tomatoes and their liquid, the bay leaf, the cinnamon stick and whole cloves. Add 3 cups water and bring the mixture to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 2-1/2 hours.

Stir in the bell pepper and kidney beans, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes longer.

Remove the cinnamon stick, bay leaf and, if possible, the cloves. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cumin. Then taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.

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