If you have read my past posts about soups, you know how I feel about this comforting food category that’s simple to make, usually requires very few bowls or pots (meaning easy cleanup), and produces leftovers that are often better than the first time around. It’s one of my top types of meal.
I feel the same way about chili. I know that chili is technically not soup; it’s more on the stew side, and with the myriad, often vastly different, versions made, it’s really its own genre. And while it’s popular in our region, I know it’s not wholly Southern, with its origins more likely lying with cowboys in the Old West.
But my favorite way to eat chili may, in fact, be Southern: Frito Pie. It’s long been believed that this dish comes from New Mexico. But there have also been some in Texas and Arkansas who claim this filling dish was first served in their states. There’s no way to tell for sure; its true backstory seems to have been lost to history. But it just doesn’t matter where it came from or who thought of it first. It’s sheer genius and just what you need to quiet your complaining tummy and taste buds when they’re craving something spicy, salty, crunchy, soft, cheesy, and warm. It starts with a good chili. Here’s the recipe for mine:
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1.5 pounds ground round
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1.5 tablespoons cumin
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1//2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 cup dark beer
- 3 cans of petite diced tomatoes
- 2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 4 ounces tomato paste
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven and then add the onions and sauté over medium-high until soft. Add the ground round and cook until no longer pink. Add the garlic and cook about a minute. Stir in the salt and spices and cook for a minute or two more. Add the beer and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, letting the liquid reduce just a bit. Add the canned tomatoes, the beans and the tomato paste and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a good simmer and cover. Let it simmer for at least an hour and up to all afternoon long. Check for salt and add more if needed. Same for chili powder and cayenne if you want it spicier. Serve with cornbread or make Frito Pie!
This is more a method than a recipe. Line a bowl with Fritos corn chips and then add your chili. Top it with anything you like. I usually do grated extra sharp cheddar, chopped scallions, and pickled jalapenos. Other favorites are chopped red onion, Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream, fresh hot peppers, a squeeze or two of lime juice, and more.