Being a native-born Yankee, I’m thankful that one of my best friends in life is a Mexican-blooded guy from Texas. Eddie gives me perspective and a glimpse into a life very different from the one I grew up with, especially when it comes to food.
Eddie and his family have shared with me some life-changing culinary traditions. Spending time in the kitchen with him and his Grandma Mary making fresh tortillas next to pots of simmering pinto beans are sights and smells that I’ll never forget. They’re gateway memories to a family lineage that takes immense pride in what they’re able to produce and share with each other.
But that bucolic portrait of a life more devout and less complicated isn’t what today is all about. Where there’s a place for hand-crafted food made with love, there’s an equally large place for some delicious junk food, which in Eddie’s house means “Frito Pie.” For those unfamiliar, Frito Pie is a Texas tradition that sees a bed of Frito corn chips topped with chili, cheese and onions. It’s salty. It’s cheesy. It’s amazing. And I feel it deserve a graduation from the bar counter to the dinner table.
Frito Pie Loaded Baked Potato
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
4 tablespoons canola oil, divided
4 medium baking potatoes
Salt and ground black pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped, divided
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 15-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup corn chips, such as Fritos
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F. Rub the skins of the potatoes with about 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Remove the baked potatoes from the oven and let rest until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.
While the potatoes are baking, place a heavy-bottom pot over medium-high heat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Reserve a few tablespoons of chopped onion to garnish the finished potatoes and add the remaining onion to the pot along with the garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and chili powder to the pot and continue cooking until the meat is browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, kidney beans, Worcestershire and 1 cup of water to the pot and bring the liquids up to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium low, season with salt and pepper and simmer the chili until thickened, about 15 minutes. Keep warm.
When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, carefully scoop the flesh out into a large mixing bowl, taking care to keep the skins whole and intact. Ladle about 2 cups of the prepared chili into the bowl with the potatoes and mash them to combine. Scoop the loaded filling back into the potato skins. Garnish the potatoes with the cheese, chips and reserved onions. Serve warm.
Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary team for Food Network stars like Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee and Paula Deen, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following his latest Tweets on Twitter at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.