Pie made with corn chips

January 02, 2002|By Sylvia Carter | Sylvia Carter,NEWSDAY

In Blue Plate Specials and Blue Ribbon Chefs (Lebhar-Friedman Books, 2001, $24.95), Jane and Michael Stern, the road food enthusiasts, hit the highways in search of more down-home cooks in out-of-the-way places.

Frito pie (in the book they call it Fritos pie) was a beloved specialty of the Woolworth's lunch counter on the Plaza in Santa Fe, N.M. Frito pie "dramatically changes consistency while you eat it," the Sterns write, with the crisp corn chips becoming soft as the spicy meat and beans soak into them.

Authentically, Frito pie is served directly inside a Fritos bag, but new bags are not as strong as the old models, so bowls will do.

Fritos Pie

Makes 4 jumbo pies

CHILI:

2 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 clove garlic, minced

1 medium onion, chopped

1 pound ground chuck

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons red-chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/3 cup tomato paste

1 1/2 cups water, approximately

1 cup cooked pinto beans

PIES:

4 to 5 cups Fritos chips (most of a 10-ounce bag)

2 cups shredded cheese, preferably Monterey Jack or Cheddar

chopped onion, optional

diced jalapeno peppers, optional

In a heavy skillet, saute bacon until fat is rendered. Add garlic and onion to pan and cook until onion softens.

Add ground chuck beef and cook until browned, breaking up lumps with a fork. (If desired, excess fat may be poured off at this point.)

Add salt, chili powder and cumin, then tomato paste and enough water to give the chili a loose, but not soupy, consistency. Cook 15 minutes. Stir in beans and simmer until beans are warmed through.

To assemble, use 4 wide, shallow bowls. In each, arrange a broad bed of chips. Ladle chili atop chips, then sprinkle cheese atop chili. Garnish with chopped onions and jalapeno peppers, if desired.

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