They say necessity is the mother of invention. In the case of food, I’d argue that poverty is often the root of genius. Really, think about it… some of the most exquisite dishes are peasant food. Cassoulet. Gazpacho. Bread pudding. Offal. Tamales. Frito Pie.
What? You’ve never made Frito Pie? Well get on board… this is the stuff that dreams are made of. At least, if your dreams include consuming 3oo times your recommended daily salt intake and having a gut that oozes over your pants. But it’s so tasty!
When I was in college, I was on the sailing team, a pseudo-sport that entailed sailing five days a week on Lake Michigan and getting together often to drink as much beer and rum as humanly possible. As we wanted to put our (meager) funds towards buying as much booze as possible, we didn’t spend much on food. Enter Frito Pie.
A coach from Texas taught us this dish and it quickly became a de facto team dinner. So much so that at one annual banquet I made Frito Pie to serve 60. It was cheap, filling and delicious. Made with lean ground turkey, it also was probably the healthiest thing I put in my body during those four years.
For these same reasons this is a great recipe for a (Superbowl?) crowd. It’s can be made ahead of time, left simmering all day in a pot, or frozen and thawed in a pinch. It can also be easily doubled or even tripled for a big crowd.
Though this dish gets its name from the Frito “crust” that you create in the bottom of the bowl, the Fritos are entirely optional (albeit sinfully delicious). You can substitute other tortilla chips or rice, and use any combination of topping you like: sour cream and cheese are my favorites. You can also easily make it vegetarian by skipping the turkey and adding two extra cans of beans.
(A Musing Bouche original)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 lb lean ground turkey (if you don’t want turkey, double the quantity of beans)
1 sweet yellow pepper, diced
1 14.5 ounce can black beans, drained
1 14.5 ounce can kidney beans, drained
1 14.5 ounce can creamed corn
2 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes
2 cans Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and green chilies
2 packets chili seasoning- 1 hot and 1 mild
1 bag Fritos
sour cream, chives and cheese to suit your tastes
Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high head and add onions, sauteing until soft, about two minutes. Add turkey (if using) and stir to break up the meat. When meat is browned, add pepper, beans, corn, tomatoes and chili seasoning. Reduce heat to low and simmer at least 45 minutes or up to three hours, stirring occasionally. To serve, put a handful of Fritos in the bottom of a bowl and ladle chili on top. Garnish with cheese, sour cream and scallions. Serves 6.