By the time my boys were 5 and 7 they had well surpassed my football knowledge. As hard as I try (which isn’t too hard, I’ll admit) I just can’t seem to remember all the rules or who’s on which team or how many yards they ran in last week’s game. I will be the first to confess that my love of sports is based purely on the food consumed while watching the game.
You want me to go to a Mariner’s game? Absolutely, as long as we’re sitting near the garlic fries station. Football game on Sunday? Well that seems like a perfectly fitting time to work on my Jalapeño Popper recipe. Superbowl is this Sunday?! Then it is time for our annual Frito Pie Tradition!!
I had my first Frito Pie at a Five and Dime in Santa Fe. The white banner waving “Frito Pie” outside the shop practically called out to me and I obeyed its command. The clerk cut open a small bag of Fritos, the kind I’d long to have in my lunch as a kid, and topped the salty corn chips with a hefty ladleful of chili and a handful of bright orange cheddar cheese. In the back of this convenient store, Gabe and I ate the Frito pie and it was perfect. I love that memorable food moments happen in fine dining restaurants and Five and Dimes and both are equally significant.
While we ate I told Gabe about how I was going to make this at home but I’d “Ashley” it up a bit. I’d make homemade chili, warmly spiced, and rich. I’d top my version with colorful pickled onions and jalapeños to make up for the brightness I was missing. There would be cilantro too and salty crumbled Cotija to take the place of the cheddar. But it’s soul, (if Frito Pie could have a soul) would still be there – comfortable, indulgent and perfectly fitting for a once a year tradition.
The first time I unveiled my rendition of the Frito Pie was Superbowl Sunday three years ago and we had it again that magical year the Seahawks won. We even had it last year and although the game was quite terrible (we don’t speak of it in our family) the Frito Pie was as delicious as always.
This year I broke my “only once a year” rule that surrounds this recipe so that I could finally share it with all of you because a recipe that I wait 364 days for needs to be shared.
1 recipe chili (see below or use your favorite)
2 large bags of fritos (or you can use the small bags for individual portions)
1 cup pickled onions
1/2 cup pickled jalapenos
1 cup crumbled cotija
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
2 limes, cut in wedges
Other toppings: grated sharp cheddar, scallions, diced onion, sour cream, avocado
You can simply pour out the fritos into a serving dish and top with the accompaniments or if you wish to be truly authentic, and I think you do, you want to serve the Frito pie directly in the Frito bag. For a large bag simply cut right through the center of the front and along the top and bottom seams. Place the bag in a shallow baking or serving dish then top with chili, pickled onions and jalapeños, Cotija, cilantro, and limes. Serve right away.
3 tablespoons oil, butter or lard
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder cut into rough 2-inch cubes
2 1/2 pounds beef chuck cut into rough 2-inch cubes
2 onions, roughly diced
1 jalapeno, small dice (more if you like more heat)
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
zest of 2 limes
1/2 cup lime juice (about 3 large limes)
1 cup orange juice
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
Salt the meat generously. Add the oil to a large dutch oven set over high heat. Brown the meat. It’s best to do this in batches so all sides of the meat get a good deep char. I’ll admit that my laziness won out and I got a good browning on some of the meat and then threw the rest in for sake of time and yet I was thrilled with the taste of the final chili.
Add the onion, jalapeno and garlic and cook until just soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the lime zest, lime juice, orange juice, tomatoes, oregano, cumin and chili powder.
Bring the entire pot to a boil then reduce to a gentle simmer. Set the lid on the pot so it’s partially covered and simmer until the meat falls apart when gently pressed, about 3 hours. If the chili gets too thick in the process add a bit of water to thin it out then continue to simmer.
The chili can be made up the three days in advance. Reheat with a bit of water to thin.