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Frito Pie ...and the makings of a Chilito!

The term "pie" is used loosely here.  If I were to name this dish, I'd probably dub it: Frichos (Frito Nachos).  The deep, earthy, bold flavors of the Southwest on a plate.  Chipotle chile powder, cayenne pepper, and hot smoked paprika lend particularly spicy notes and undertones to the seasoned ground beef.   Scooped up with thick, salty corn chips...with a cloud of cooling sour cream perched atop with the smattering of other tasty's about as comfort-food as it gets.

I happened to make this a few days ago when the ground (and subsequently my outdoor table) was still wet.  But now, when cautiously squinting out the window at a ten-inch wall of blinding bright snow almost causes you to shiver sympathetically with the barren trees, would be a fabulous time for another warming plateful of Frichos.  I mean Frito Pie.  And since corn chips disappear as quickly around here as tortilla chips, I had to find a different application for that extra picoso meat leftover in the fridge. 

 Now, I'm going to dare voice two words that will either cause your belly to grumble or your body to shudder. Taco Bell.  Should I say it again?  Taco Bell.  I'm going to go ahead and admit that I like it.  Hey, I grew up with it.  During lunch in high school, we used to race over to TB...order...shove it down as quickly as you can (high school lunch-syndrome)...and get back before the bell rang.  I don't eat it that often anymore, but about once every six months or so, I get the craving.  Inevitably I order a bean burrito w/ sour cream plus one other thing.  Everybody I know has a favorite.  My sister's was a Chilito (Chili Cheese Burrito)...which I don't think they even make anymore.  However, I called her up excitedly yesterday after I magically and unexpectedly made one  at home.  Using the meat that I had left from the Frichos.  Basically, take a large flour tortilla.  Put a line of this meat down the center.  Top that with shredded sharp cheddar cheese.  Microwave until hot.  And roll it up into a burrito.  Add sour cream, if you're like me (though that's not original to a Chilito).  Taste and be amazed.  I swear, it tastes JUST like it.  Exactly!
Frito Pie

by Heather Schmitt-González adapted from Saveur no.144
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Keywords: entree beef Southwest

Ingredients (serves 6)
  • 2½ lb. ground beef
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 2 Tbs. chipotle chile powder
  • 1 Tbs. dried oregano
  • 2 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1¼ Tbs. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbs. smoked paprika
  • 1½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 c. whole, peeled tomatoes in juice, pureed
  • 1½ c. water
to serve:
  • ~14 oz. Fritos (or other corn chips)
  • Cheddar-Jack cheese, shredded
  • sour cream
  • pickled jalapenos, sliced
  • scallions, sliced
  • cilantro

Brown beef in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to break up clumps, until done, ~10 minutes. Drain fat.

Heat oil in the same pan and add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to caramelize, ~15 minutes.

Add garlic and a big pinch of salt and cook for another 5 minutes or so, still stirring. Add all of the spices to the pan and cook, stirring, for another minute or so.

Add beef back to pan along with the tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until thick and deep red in color, ~45 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Taste and add salt, if needed.

To serve, divide chips into piles on plates. Top with a couple of scoops of the meat. Add as much sour cream and cheese to each plate as you'd like. Scatter with jalapenos, scallions, and cilantro. Enjoy!
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