Frito Pie, Y’all!

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Would you believe that Frito pie is actually good for you? Well, it ain’t.

Frito Pie has been on my mind of late. The warm weather has me conjuring up thoughts of State Fairs and picnics and baseball games and other specifically American outdoor events that suggest foods eaten out of hand and foods that defy all conventional “healthy-eating” sensibilities. Frito Pie is one food that fits both criteria — it’s portable and well, disposable, and it’s virtually devoid of any redeeming nutritional value. However, it is super-yummy in all its gleefully white-trashy, grease-bomby way. I like it! It reminds me of my youth and my Southern ties, of hot weather and festival foods.

Now there’s a school of Frito Pie theory that suggests a baked casserole sort of construction, like some kind of bastardized Tex-Mex lasagna or ghetto-style enchiladas. Sure, you bake a bunch of Fritos (and no other corn chip is acceptable) with chili or ground beef with cheese and salsa and you know that’s going to be tasty treat. But to me that’s not really Frito Pie even if it kind of resembles a pie; to me Frito Pie is the so-called “walking taco” whereby you cut open a snack-sized bag of Fritos (the one and only) and you dump into it some hot chili (preferably beanless), some grated cheese, some sour cream and then maybe some other garnishes like jalapenos, hot sauce, chopped scallions, guacamole, etc. You scarf that down with a plastic fork (or spork, if you should be so lucky) and wash that down with an ice-cold PBR or Dixie (or Shiner Bock, if you should be so lucky) and that’s good eatin’, y’all!

For an afternoon snack today I made a totally delish Frito Pie. Because I had only a large bag of Fritos, I put it into a plastic deli cup and I ate it with a plastic fork. This presentation approximated the portability of eating out of a greasy plastic bag but was way neater. It went a little something like this….

  • 1 cup of Fritos dumped into a 16-ounce plastic container
  • 3/4 cup of basic meaty beanless chili put on top of that
  • 1/2 cup of grated “Mexican-style” cheese (jack & cheddar) scattered over the hot chili
  • 1/4 cup sour cream dumped into the container slightly off to the side
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh avocado, dumped into the container slightly off to the side
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro put on top
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green onion, on top
  • 1 teaspoon (or more!) hot sauce. I used Cholula, which is awesome.
  • stick a plastic fork in it
  • eat!

So, if you’re hankering for something that isn’t remotely healthy, try some Frito Pie. You can’t live on vegan kale salad alone, ya know!

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But it sho is yummy!

I’ve included a basic chili recipe. This is simple chili not meant to be eaten as a main course but to go on top of hot dogs, burgers, and things like Frito Pie.

Basic Chili:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped red or green bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup beer
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne

To make the chili melt the butter with the oil in a 4-quart heavy-bottomed pot set over medium heat. Turn heat up to high and add the ground beef. Season beef with salt and pepper to taste and brown well. Add the onions and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes until softened. Add tomato paste and cook that, stirring around, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Sprinkle the flour over the beef and onion mixture and stir well. Add beer and cook until the alcohol smell has dissipated. Add all remaining ingredients. Stir well to combine. Bring to a low boil and then reduce heat to low. Simmer for a minimum of 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. I like to cook it gently for at least an hour until everything breaks down nicely and the excess water has evaporated. Keep in mind that this chili is better the next day, so plan ahead if you can.

Burratta Caprese

Caprese salad, in any form, is just so photogenic!

Anyone who’s ever read this blog will know of my devotion to burratta, that Italian cheese sensation that’s been cresting for several years now. Once a little-known fringe cheese from Apulia (that’s in Italy, duh!), in America it hit the foodie scene with a splash due to the efforts of a couple of producers here in Southern California. Dozens of companies now make some version of the delightful pouch of fresh mozzarella filled with creamy stracciatelle. I particularly love the burratta from Gioia, which is large and just fantastically delicious. I also like the slightly milder and slightly sweeter burratta from Di Stephano, which is what you see here. Di Stephano might be slightly more elegant than the Gioia, but both are delicious. I’m not sure about Gioia, but Di Stephano claims to import fresh cream from Italy for the filling.

I whipped up this late snack for Regina the other day — very ripe roma tomatoes topped with burratta, fresh mint, baby wild arugula, balsamic syrup, and extra virgin olive oil. It was pretty damn delicious, if I may so. I think Regina liked it too, because she inhaled it in under 23 seconds.

 

 

Yesterday’s Brekkie: Manchego Fried Egg

Perfectly cooked fried egg with a sprinkle of aged manchego.

This is just a pic of yesterday’s breakfast.

I cracked a single egg into a very hot nonstick pan with a pat of melted butter in it. I fried the egg for about one minute until it got a little crispy on the edges. I seasoned the egg with some good salt and fresh ground pepper and then I sprinkled a teaspoon of finely grated aged manchego cheese (ya know that deliciously nutty sheep’s milk cheese from Spain?) over the uncooked top and then flipped the egg. I added another teaspoon of cheese over the top. I fried the egg another 45 seconds or so until the whites were fully cooked but the yolk was still quite runny, which is the way I like it!

The egg had a lovely delicate cheesiness to it, not overpowering or too salty. Just occasional hints of that touch of the creamy nuttiness that typifies great manchego cheese. Had it with a little buttered toast and a peeled sumo tangerine (not pictured). Drank a great cup of Yorkshire Gold tea. Ate breakfast with my wife.

 

Yesterday’s Brekkie: Manchego Fried Egg

Perfectly cooked fried egg with a sprinkle of aged manchego.

This is just a pic of yesterday’s breakfast.

I cracked a single egg into a very hot nonstick pan with a pat of melted butter in it. I fried the egg for about one minute until it got a little crispy on the edges. I seasoned the egg with some good salt and fresh ground pepper and then I sprinkled a teaspoon of finely grated aged manchego cheese (ya know that deliciously nutty sheep’s milk cheese from Spain?) over the uncooked top and then flipped the egg. I added another teaspoon of cheese over the top. I fried the egg another 45 seconds or so until the whites were fully cooked but the yolk was still quite runny, which is the way I like it!

The egg had a lovely delicate cheesiness to it, not overpowering or too salty. Just occasional hints of that touch of the creamy nuttiness that typifies great manchego cheese. Had it with a little buttered toast and a peeled sumo tangerine (not pictured). Drank a great cup of Yorkshire Gold tea. Ate breakfast with my wife.

 

Late-Night Lamb-Nacho Grub-Fest

Grilled lamb nachos loaded with toppings!

Yeah, I’m eating like a college student, much to my chagrin. Regina was out of town for a couple of nights and in my boredom (and without her gentle moderation) I drank too much cheap beer while watching hours of TV, something I never get a chance to do anymore. The resultant salt-craving munchie attack produced this pile of delicious nachos; it tasted fantastic, although the subsequent shame-wave forced me to hit the running trail hard the next morning.

I had some leftover grilled lamb shoulder, which I cut off the bone and hacked into little pieces. On an oven-proof plate I mounded some tortilla chips and covered them with the little lamb bits and an unhealthy amount of grated cheese (a blend of cheddar and mont-jack). I broiled the plate for a couple of minutes until the cheese melted and I got a little char on the chips. I topped it with some homemade chipotle salsa, some Mexican crema, some diced avocado, and a generous amount of Cholula hot sauce.

It was delish, and I drank two more Mexi-beers to celebrate!

Cacio e Pepe – Simple & Sublime Spaghetti

My friend Joel pointed me in the direction of this easy and incredibly satisfying pasta dish from Rome. Like many of my favorite Italian dishes it involves just a few very basic staples; it demonstrates once again that you can make wonderful food from virtually nothing with just a little invention and a little care.

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Concorde Pear & Aged Beemster

A perfect pairing for a concorde pear.

My favorite fruit (for at least this week) is the concorde pear, grown in Oregon and Washington and available at the Gelson’s Market in Century City where I shop for work several times a week. It’s a perfect, balanced, flavorful, and delicious pear. It’s a hybrid of a comice pear and conference pear (a variety I’ve never heard of before) characterized by a pale, smooth, yellow-green skin and an elongated neck a bit like a bosc. 
The pear is best to eat when not overly-ripe. It’s deliciously fantastic when still crunchy, and the flavor is sweet, mild, with vanilla notes and just the barest hint of honey in the flesh. It’s a bit like a firm Bartlett without the propensity to get mushy. My friend Mischa and I made a snack of one of these pears with a wedge of aged (at least two years) Beemster cheese, that king of dry Dutch cheeses. Beemster is flavorful, salty, dry, creamy, nutty, and a bit piquant all at the same time — it’s got a wild array of flavors. It’s one of my favorite snacking cheeses, and it was absolutely the perfect foil for this gorgeous pear. 
If it wasn’t just after noon on a school day, I’d have quaffed a glass of semi-dry Riesling with this delightful snack. But I don’t like picking up my boy from school reeking of vino (whatever would the neighbors say?), so I eschewed the wine (until later). 

The flight of the concorde! It’s my favorite fruit (today)!