Last night, we had a gaggle of friends over to introduce them to the gooey, crunchy, savory, meaty dish known as Frito Pie. A mix of Midwesterners and native New Yorkers, they had never tasted this Texas delicacy, which is offered for cheap all over the state, usually at a football game or maybe out of the back of a truck as a fundraising tool. (With signs like “.25-cent Fritos Pies — for a good cause! Support your local Boosters.”)
True Texas-style Frito Pie is three basic ingredients — Fritos, meat-based chili (canned Hormel is common), and cheese — all eaten inside the Frito bag, and served with a spork. Not wanting to give our friends hypertension, we made our chili very low-fat. But the Fritos and the cheese? Why mess with such perfection?
INGREDIENTS -serves 8
-1 can black beans, 1 can black eyed peas, 1 can pink or kidney beans, all rinsed and drained
-2.5 to 3 cans 16 oz whole peeled tomatoes. Chop all tomatoes into bite-size pieces, and keep all sauce.
-6 baby carrots, finely diced
-1 stalk celery, finely diced
-1 1/2 onions, chopped
– 3/4 lb ground meat (we used ground turkey sausage). Cook in advance, and drain grease well. You can use less meat (or none at all) or more meat, depending on carnivorous tendencies. The more meat, the more liquid you’ll need to add.
-2 canned chipotle peppers (1 or 2, plus juice from can, depending on spice preference). This ingredient gives the dish it’s smokiness, and therefore, can’t be omitted or else Texas gods might smite you.
-4 tbsp olive oil
-1 small bell pepper, chopped
-chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, oregano, to taste
-4 large garlic cloves, diced (we’re fans of pre-chopped garlic)
-8 small bags of Fritos
-8 ounce extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
In large pot over medium heat, saute onion in olive oil, until it starts to turn clear. Add bell pepper and let cook for several minutes. Add meat, garlic. let cook for a couple of minutes. Add all tomatoes and most of tomato sauce (leaving behind maybe a cup), beans, celery, carrots, two chipotle peppers, spices. Stir well, let mix come to boil. Stir again, reduce heat to low and let simmer for at least an hour, stirring fairly often, with lid off. Consistency should be very thick, but saucy — thick enough to eat with a fork. If chili is too thick/dry, add more tomato sauce or some dark beer. If too liquid-y, add more beans or meat. Add as much chipotle as you like, but it will get spicier the more it cooks (the chipotle is our favorite part and we like at least 2 full peppers plus a few teaspoons of the sauce).
Once chili is done, cut all Frito bags lengthwise. Carefully pour in one heaping ladle of chili mix into bag, top with 1 ounce or so cheese. Dunk in a spoon or fork and serve immediately. Be ready with extra servings when friends look up from empty Frito bag, smile, and ask for more.