Friday Night Lights and Frito Pie
The Texas traditions of high school football & Frito Pie are inexorably linked. Learn more about the portable chili snack that’s a Lone Star favorite.
Fall in Texas is a special time of year. It brings with it respite from the relentless heat of the summer, the promise of homecoming and over the top mums, but most importantly, fall in Texas means football. And high school football, traditionally played on Friday nights, means Frito Pie is back.
As with other great Texas food traditions like Chicken Fried Steak, the precise and exact origins of Frito Pie are unknown, lost to the ages like sparks escaping from a campfire in the West Texas desert. If you’re not familiar with Fritos, they’re little rectangular strips of corn chip, and as the name of the dish suggests, they’re a non negotiable ingredient. The rest of Frito Pie has little to nothing to do with actual pie, be it sweet or savory. A bag of Fritos is cut open, chili is ladled on top, and a healthy dose of cheese crowns the dish- and that’s all there is to it. Sour cream, onions, hot sauce and jalapenos are all optional extras.
Given this, I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that Frito Pie was invented out of convenience – both for the ease of a handheld, self contained meal, and the simple assembly of a warm dish as the weather turns cool, which requires nothing more than scooping the State Dish of Texas out of a crockpot, into a waiting bag. Just make sure your don’t put any beans in your chili – that’s considered treason in this state.
It’s cheap, comforting and uniquely Texan, and it’ll keep you warm as you sit in the cold bleachers and root for the home team. And I’m pretty sure Riggins would have eaten at least one after the game…
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Friday Night Lights - Frito Pie Recipe
Makes enough for 8 Frito Pies, plus a little leftover chili for the next day ;)
- 8 1 or 2 oz bags of Fritos
- 2 lb ground beef
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 10 oz can of Rotel
- 1 8oz can of tomato sauce
- 1.5 cups beer, Lone Star is preferred.
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 2 tbsp cornmeal or masa harina
- Salt to taste
- 1.5 cups grated cheddar cheese
Set a large dutch oven over high heat, add half the olive oil and brown the ground beef. Work in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan and stewing the meat in it's own juices.
Remove the meat and set aside. Add the remaining oil, and the onion, and cook until nicely browned.
Add in garlic, chili powder, cayenne, cumin and salt. Stir to combine.
Return the meat to the pan. Add in the beer, Rotel and tomato sauce, then bring to a low simmer. Cover with a lid and allow to bubble and simmer so sauce reduces and thickens, and the flavors intensify, about 1 hour.
After an hour, stir through the cornmeal which will help to thicken the sauce. If sauce starts to get too thick, add a little water, and if it's not yet thick enough, continue to simmer until desired consistency is reached.
Slice or fold open the bags, and spoon the chili on top of the Fritos. Then top each bag with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese. Allow to melt slightly, then serve and enjoy.
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