Frito Pie ~ Guest Post by Heather Morgan

The tiniest fraction of MF readers requested a recipe for Frito Pie, so Blythe graciously suggested it be posted for posterity. And her sweet family enjoyed some with us for fun! The simple version is below, and wouldn’t even require words if the artistry were more convincing. This visual instruction method works well when delivering the culinary dish to, say, sleep-deprived new parents.

For the even smaller fraction of readers interested in making the chili Kara enjoyed, please read on! A cursory list and instructions are at the end. My narrated version is between here and there. Please keep these Southern kitchen facts in mind as we proceed: 1) it’s different every time since a written recipe doesn’t exist, 2) “some” is, in fact, a form of measurement and any accompanying specifics are a mere educated guess, 3) excessive commentary is intrinsic to sharing recipes, 4) please don’t serve this as a casserole where it’s made up in a large pan then scooped out - or at least call it “Frito Mush” and don’t associate me with it if you do! For the record, as a Texan, I usually agree with the argument against chili with beans. Somehow, though, Frito Pie requires the beans so I’m okay with that. Opposers are cordially invited to try it both ways and choose for themselves.

Pictured below are the main ingredients I use when making chili. Nods to family all around: beef from my husband’s relatives in Southern Colorado, beans from my Dad’s hometown where signage on the highway has indicated some impressive statistics over the years including “Pinto Bean Capital of the World!” and population numbers consistently in the triple digits. The idea of making Frito Pie for the Tippetts started when I brought back a bag of famous Anasazi beans for Kara when we visited extended family in the Dove Creek area. Most friends give souvenirs like keychains or Christmas ornaments; I’m the kind that gives bags of beans. I’m not sure what that means. (The story of Anasazi beans is worth looking up! Sadly, even my disclaimer above about excessive commentary doesn’t justify the telling of it here, so check it out sometime if you’re interested.)

Also included in the photo are tomato sauce and items from my bulk spice stash - red chili powder and cumin, some salt. Other options not pictured are finely chopped onions tossed in while the beef is browning. And I usually add some salsa for extra flavor - just whatever might be in the refrigerator.

The beans need a solid day (6-8 hours) to cook, either in a large pot on the stove or in a slow cooker. I rarely remember to rinse and soak beans the night before and the only consequence I’ve suffered is that I have to keep adding water all day to keep them submerged as they grow. It’s a small but very important task. Burnt beans smell awful! And, at least for me, there’s no time to start over. Anasazis cook faster than pintos (4-5 hours). I’ve used both when cooking for Kara and her family.

To prepare the beans, rinse 3 cups of them a couple of times, pour them into a large pot, cover them - plus an extra inch or so - with water (but no lid, unless you’re using a slow cooker). Bring to a boil then simmer 6-8 hours, maintaining the water level.

Somewhere along the way, brown 2 pounds of ground beef, with or without 1/4 cup of finely diced onion. Preserve the meat responsibly until the beans are cooked. (You know, in the refrigerator if you cook it early on, or keep it nearby if it’s prepared later in the game.) The one non-negotiable instruction is that beans and meat must be fully cooked separately.

When the beans are soft (past al dente but not all the way to mushy), add some salt (1 tsp). I prefer not to drain the beans at all. 

Then add the ground beef, tomato sauce, some chili powder (lots! like 1/4 cup - there’s a reason it’s called “chili,” folks, and it’s not very spicy anyway), some cumin (maybe 1 tsp), and some salsa if you like (up to 1/2 cup). 

Stir it all around, let it simmer until it’s the thickness you like and/or it’s time to serve.

Put 1/2 to 1 cup of original Fritos in an individual bowl, top with a similar amount of chili, sprinkle with some cheddar cheese and serve immediately.

*A traditional fundraiser option to a bowl is an individual Fritos bag, as pictured below. (Isn’t it unbelievable that anyone would make fun of my technological skills? Clearly, I’m gettin’ it done here.)

And there you have it! Fritos Pie. I would be remiss if I did not thank my Mom who showed me the ropes on this delicacy and so many others, letting me think (until I was a mother myself and discovered it to be a white lie!) that I was genuinely helping when I was making the kitchen messes with which she was so patient. I realize more and more that the things God has made it possible for me to share with others - cooking, sewing, time, whatever - are gifts my sweet Mom gave to me. Thanks, everyone! Enjoy!

For 6-8 servings of FRITO PIE:
2 large bags of original Fritos
3 cups dry beans (Anasazi or pinto)
lots of water
2# ground beef, browned with or without…
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1 tsp salt
1 can tomato sauce
1/4 cup red chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 cup prepared salsa (optional)
1-2 cups grated cheddar cheese
Rinse the beans, place them in a large pan, cover (plus one inch) with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer 6-8 hours, being careful to maintain water level by checking/adding often. When the beans are soft, add 1 tsp salt and stir. Then add prepared beef, tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin and salsa. Combine thoroughly and allow to simmer until desired thickness is achieved and/or it is time to serve.
Place 1/2-1 cup Fritos in an individual bowl. Top with a similar amount of chili, then a generous sprinkle of cheddar cheese. And let’s all admit that it’s easier to eat this yumminess with a spoon!

The Fritos are barely visible in this picture. Perhaps I ought to draw in some!