Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I Know — But When You Want It, You Want It
We all crave foods that are bad for us or that we’re embarrassed to admit we like — often both. They’re our guilty pleasures. We visited the concept a few months back in our Cheddar Cheese Chicken Curry post.
You’ve got your own list, I’m sure. It might include Tuna Noodle Casserole (with corn-flake topping!) or fake Mexican “queso” dip (made with Velveeta!) or Jell-O Mold (with marshmallows!).
Me? At this time of year, I hear the siren song of one of my favorite guilty pleasures, Frito Pie.
It’s decadent and delicious — and I can’t resist it. I’ll bet you can’t, either.
Recipe: Frito Pie
To make the classic Frito Pie, you rip open one of those individual serving-size bags of Fritos and ladle in some piping hot chili. Then smother it with diced raw onions, grated cheddar, and maybe jalapeño pepper slices. In the 1980s, when I lived in Texas, you could find the classic Frito Pie sold at lunch counters all over the state.
We’re doing the “upscale” version today — which means we’re going to use an actual dish instead of a torn Frito bag. But the concept is the same.
Most of the time, cooks don’t make a batch of chili just to turn it into Frito Pie. This is a “leftover” dish. So I’m going to assume you already have some chili in the freezer.
If you don’t have a favorite chili recipe, may I suggest my Basic Chili recipe? Other good – and healthier! – choices would be Sweet Potato Chili with Black Beans or Vegetarian Chili.
I always freeze leftover chili (and soup) in 1-quart containers, which is enough for two hearty servings. So this recipe serves two (or three if you really load up the bowls with Fritos). But you can easily scale it up (or down) to suit your needs.
- 1 quart leftover chili
- 2 tablespoons diced raw onion (or to taste)
- 1 ounce grated cheddar cheese (or to taste)
- 1 jalapeño pepper, sliced or seeded and diced (optional; ripe – red – jalapeños are terrific)
- a couple of good handfuls of corn chips (I always use Fritos)
- Put chili in medium-sized saucepan over medium heat to rewarm it (if frozen, add a bit of water to the pot so you don’t scorch the bottom). Stir occasionally.
- Meanwhile, dice the onion, grate the cheddar cheese, and (if using), slice or seed and dice your jalapeño. (Make sure to wash your hands after handling the jalapeño pepper — the oil can burn if you rub it into your eyes.)
- Place a handful of corn chips in each serving dish (a good-sized soup bowl)
- Once the chili is hot, ladle it into each serving dish.
- Top chili with onion, optional jalapeño pepper, and grated cheddar cheese.
- You may want to sprinkle a few more corn chips on top of the cheese if you want to be fancy.
- Serve and enjoy!
- Ingredient quantities are highly elastic in this recipe. Alter quantities to suit your taste.
- Likewise, add/subtract ingredients to suit your whimsy. Some people prefer pickled jalapeños to fresh, and some elect to top the dish with a dollop of sour cream.
- I’ve long resisted the packaged, grated cheese you can buy in the supermarket, preferring to grate my own. I gave in the other day and purchased some grated cheddar for a dish I was making (I bought the supermarket brand — I see no reason to use a name brand). As a control, I also purchased some supermarket-brand chunk cheddar and grated it. The result of my taste test? They were identical! No quality loss in the packaged grated cheese, to my surprise. And the grated cheese was even a few cents cheaper than the chunk cheddar!
- I like the shape of Frito-Lay brand corn chips, so I always use them even though the supermarket brand is equally tasty. Besides, if you’re making Frito Pie you should use, well Fritos! And of course Frito-Lay is a Texas company, and this is a Texas dish, after all.
- The usually accurate Wikepedia suggests that Frito Pie is “typically” made as a baked casserole. I say: No way. That may be a popular variation of the dish (and good for feeding a crowd), but the classic version is chili spooned over Fritos.
- Actually, the original version might have used canned chili. Specifically, Wolf Brand chili, the canned chili in Texas. As evidence, I point to this Homesick Texan Frito Pie post, in which the author describes her grandparents importing Fritos and Wolf brand chili to Kentucky (where they were graduate students) in the late 1940s.
- Drink a Dr Pepper with your Wolf chili and Fritos, and you’ll have the complete Texas convenience-food trifecta.
- Good news! Wolf brand chili is now available outside of Texas. Their website says it’s available throughout the Midwest, and I’ve seen it in supermarkets here in St. Louis. I’m quite happy making my own chili, so I’m not inclined to buy theirs. But perhaps I will try it someday just to satisfy my anthropological curiosity.
Traditional Texas chili contains lots of meat, but no beans. My own chili preference leans towards including beans. For Frito Pie, however, a true Texas all-meat chili would be authentic — and it might have the flavor edge. This clearly is an area that needs more study.
Come to think of it, I really need to try out all the popular taste permutations, don’t you think? Frito Pie with traditional Texas Chili, Frito Pie with Wolf brand chili, Frito Pie Casserole. Why, the possibilities are endless!
“But your waistband isn’t,” Mrs. Kitchen Riffs observes.
“This is research!” I respond, sucking in my stomach.
Some people just don’t understand science.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Sweet Potato Chili with Black Beans
Cheddar Cheese Chicken Curry