Sunday, October 7, 2012

Frito Pie

Being a child of the 70s and raised by an “Earth Mother” who did not allow processed foods of any kind, naturally I gravitated towards things like Fritos and other delightful snack foods, but usually as something I snuck and ate in my car or late at night. Ironically, it was my own mother who gifted me this very cookbook (“Carrie – Happy Easter 1993 Love, Mama”) and thus helped me learn to incorporate those “forbidden foods” into perfectly acceptable company dinners.

Recently I found myself with a surplus of chili (leftover from a campout with a Hillbilly theme, if you must know) and was too tired after the weekend to cook a meal. I didn’t want just leftovers, and my friends were shouting Frito Pie! Frito Pie! OK I have to admit I’d never heard of such a thing, but I knew right where to turn. Thank you, mom, for the book that teaches me to cook in ways that you never did.

Fritos brand corn chips were created by Texan Elmer Doolin sometime around 1932. (See? Vintage food, or course I love them. – CS) Beginning with a formula purchased from a Mexican cook, adapted from the authentic corn tortilla, Doolin parlayed his snack business into a national phenomenon.  Fritos brand Corn Chips Chili Pie, invented by Doolin’s mother, Daisy, is a baked dish of corn chips, chili, onions and cheese that soon became the Southwest’s equivalent of the tuna noodle casserole. The Walkabout (aka “Frito Boats” – CS), created by spooning chili, cheese and onions into an opened snack-size bag of Fritos brand Corn Chips, is eaten on the hoof with a spoon and is still enjoyed at drive-ins, rodeos, state fairs and the like. (“The Back of the Box Gourmet”, Michael McLaughlin 1991)

 Basically, you throw chili (be it leftover or a can) into a casserole with Fritos, onions and cheese, and bake it. So Easy! So Good! Please note, though, that as much as I love to sneak junk food, I will not and cannot eat American Cheese, so I used cheddar. See, mom, at least some of what you taught me stuck!



3 large cups Fritos brand Corn Chips, divided

1 large onion, chopped

1 cup grated American cheese, divided

1 19-oz can chili

Spread 2 cups Fritos brand Corn Chips in a baking dish. Arrange chopped onion and half of the cheese on top of the corn chips. Pour chili over the onions and cheese. Top with remaining corn chips and cheese. Bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Makes 4 to 6 servings.