Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Fall is for Frito Pie

Fall means a lot of different things to a lot of different people: cooler temperatures and warmer colors, pumpkins and spice, and - of course - football (real and virtual).

A lot more baking happens in the fall while comforting soups and stews simmer on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. Chili contents are held. 

While I've enjoyed a lot of chili in my lifetime, I have never had it served on top of Fritos. I had never even heard of it. . . 

Come to think of it, I did come across it once. There was a hotdog stand on a downtown corner where I used to live - Weiner Wagon. Their menu featured three varieties of Frito Pie. Three. I cannot recall if I ever tried one. However, I remember it sounded sort of amazing and disgusting at the same time.

Imagine my surprise when - several years later - I see an Instagram post from Food & Wine with a recipe for Frito Pie. The photo shows three individual size bags of Fritos, slit open, with the chili served right in the bag. Sort of lowbrow for a foodie publication, don't you think? (Is it really food? Is there really an appropriate wine pairing?)

A quick search for Frito pie will net you a plethora of recipes. Turns out, this is not a passing fad. Another publication, Epicurious, ranks eating chili right out of a bag of Fritos as the number one way to eat chili. (For reference, they rank Cincinnati chili as the worst.)

However, while Epicurious does provide a recipe for Cincinnati chili they do not for Frito Pie. That's because it's simple: "split a personal-size bag of Fritos down the middle and pour your chili in."

That didn't keep Food & Wine from publishing a recipe for Frito Pie - a rather highbrow one at that. The first reviewer wrote: 

" Ruined the simplicity of what makes Frito pies great with the addition of superfluous, Cali-elitist ingredients. Definitely not a Texas Frito pie that so many of us Texans enjoy every Fall Friday night under the bright lights of high school football stadiums whether our team wins or loses. . . . "

 (For reference, Food & Wine also has a recipe for Cincinnati Chili.)

I decided to try it. I made a hybrid Frito Pie, meaning that I made chili from scratch but a far simpler version. I served it in a bowl (not in the bag): Fritos topped with chili (with black beans), topped with shredded cheddar cheese and chopped onion. We ate it in front of the TV in front of a football game for the whole experience.

Mind blown! I couldn't believe I had never had this before.

Consider this: I have made Cincinnati Chili. On purpose. And eaten it. On purpose. So consider your reviewer's point of view. Frito Pie may not be too lowbrow for me.