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.

Roasted Paprika-Rubbed “Rock N Roll” Chicken Wings

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Overnight marinating makes these wings super-flavor-flav!

You guys know how much I just LOVE chicken wings, don’t ya? To give you some idea I’ve already published five other posts about wings and I’m sure I’ve alluded to wings in at least six other posts (I’ve linked to the good ones below.) There’s not much more I can add to the pre-existing wing conversation; however, I will reiterate that I absolutely love crisp & chewy skin, I adore the moist tender meat within, and I find irresistible what I like to call the “primal gnaw”, that nearly instinctual desire to chew cooked meat off of bones, using only your hands, in a greasy-fingered manner that recalls primitive man. It’s primal and messy and communal and well, fun.

My usual M.O. when making wings is to par-cook them; first I’ll bake them at a low temperature until about 80% cooked and then I’ll fry them until crisp. This two-pronged approach yields perfectly crisp wings every time. However, cooking them this way means you can’t really infuse the chicken itself with a lot of other flavorings (dried spices and marinades will dissipate the instant the wing hits the hot oil) and you need a finishing sauce of some kind to add some zest — classic Buffalo sauce, bbq sauce, honey-soy sauces, etc. I love the sauces, don’t get me wrong, but the longer the wings are saturated with sauce the father away they get from the skin-crunch ideal.

And of course you can achieve very flavorful wings with other methods — low-oil skillet-frying, grilling — but they don’t come close to deep-frying for crispy skin. I wanted a wing that was shot-through with flavor but came close to the great crispity-crunchity of fried wings. After a little tinkering I found a method that was worth sharing: high-heat roasting wings that have been coated with a moist dry rub, finished under the broil. The results were awesome — crisp and flavorful with no moist sauce to undercut the crunch. I ended up drizzling the still-hot wings with a wee bit of honey and they were AWESOME!

You’ll need:

  • 12 largish chicken wings (tips removed) cut into 24 individual pieces
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1 tablespoon mirin (Japanese cooking wine) or anything similar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus a little extra when you cook them
  • honey for a last-minute drizzle

Now do this:

Put the cut wings into a large mixing bowl. Mix all the dried spices together and dump it over the wings. Using your hands coat the wings thoroughly with spices. Add the mirin, the soy sauce, and the oil. Coat wings thoroughly with wet ingredients and stick them into a ziploc bag. Wait impatiently for 24 hours. Preheat oven to 525º.

Place wings on a rack set over a sheet pan. Roast wings for 10 or 12 minutes or until the edges of the wings look crisp but not charred. Remove the pan from the oven and allow them to rest for about 15 minutes. Set the oven to broil and place a rack about six inches from the heating element.

Drizzle a little vegetable oil on the “up-side” of the wings. Broil 1 or 2 minutes or until nicely crunchy and a bit charred. Flip the wings and repeat the oil and the broil. Congrats! Your wings are finished.

Drizzle with a little honey if you wish.

Why are they called Rock N Roll Wings? Why not? They rock.

Check out my earlier wing-related posts:

Crispy Wok-Fried Wings: https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/crispy-wok-fried-chicken-wings/

Honey-Ginger Chicken Wings, Again: https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/honey-ginger-chicken-wings-again/

Late-Night-Guilty-Pleasure Wings: https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/late-night-guilty-pleasure-chicken-wings/

Chicken Wings & The Primal Gnaw: https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/chicken-wings-the-primal-gnaw/

It’s Game Time:     https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/its-game-time/

Crispy Wok-Fried Chicken Wings

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Man, I love chicken wings!

I’m a sucker for chicken wings, as you could probably guess if you’ve followed my blog at all. I love the chewy, crispy skin and the inelegant but highly satisfying act of gnawing hot meat off of bones. Yesterday I cranked out this simple Asian-persuasion wing dish for an early dinner for just the wife and me.

As usual I par-cooked the wings prior to frying. I preheated the oven to 300°F and then I tossed the wings with a little vegetable oil, salt, pepper, and a little garlic powder. I put the wings on a sheet pan lined with a rack to allow some of the fats to drip off. It took about 35 minutes to cook the wings totally through. I removed the wings and let them cool to room temperature before finishing them.

I heated a wok over high and added about an inch of rice bran oil (the preferred oil for frying tempura) although peanut oil would be an excellent substitute. When the oil was smoking-hot I gently lowered about twelve wings into the wok and fried them until browned and crispy, turning them frequently with a tongs. It took about eight minutes to get the wings totally, evenly browned.

I removed and drained the wings and placed them still piping hot into a large mixing bowl. I scattered over the wings about a half-teaspoon of kosher salt, a generous amount of cracked black pepper (think teaspoon), a pinch of white pepper, a pinch of Chinese five-spice powder, a pinch of garlic powder, about a tablespoon of dark soy sauce, about a teaspoon of light brown sugar, about a teaspoon of togarashi shichimi (a Japanese seasoned chili pepper powder), about a tablespoon of minced fresh cilantro, and a big knob of room-temperature butter, which melted immediately as it hit the hot wings. I tossed it all together to coat the wings and then dumped them unceremoniously on a plate.

Regina and I scarfed the yummy wings in no time. Little baby Vivian had a couple of chicken scraps as well and made little positive murmurs as she chewed (her version of “compliments to the chef”). The wings were delicious!

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I crisped the wings in about an inch of rice bran oil.

Check out my other wing-related posts!

https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/its-game-time/

https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/chicken-wings-the-primal-gnaw/

https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/late-night-guilty-pleasure-chicken-wings/

https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/honey-ginger-chicken-wings-again/