This dish is one of those family classics that is very simple, but has stuck around for a reason. Craig grew up on this dish, and when we moved out of the dorms in college and started making dinner for ourselves, it was one of the first recipes he requested from his mom. At first, I was a little skeptical – Craig calls this “Frito pie,” which sounded odd to me. After the first time he made it, though, I was completely won over. What’s not to like about a crispy, cheesy Frito topping? Of course, we had to make this recipe our own over time and put our own spin on it. We have probably made this dish every couple of months or so for the past five years, and we now have it perfected to the way we like it.
Last year, sadly, Craig’s mom passed away. A couple of months later, wanting to assemble her best recipes and hold on to them, his dad and his sister were on the hunt for this recipe. It seems the original copy had somehow disappeared from his parents’ house. Well, I was so happy to be able to tell them that I still had the copy she had made for us during college, and I quickly sent it back their way. This is a recipe that will certainly live on in our household, and we are looking forward to getting our own kids hooked on it someday as a family classic handed down from their grandmother.
Our adaptations to Sally’s recipe
- 1 lb. ground meat (the original, of course, is ground beef, but I almost always use ground turkey or chicken)
- 1 cup finely diced onion
- 2 Tbsp. chili seasoning (I make my own using chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper)
- 6 oz. can tomato paste
- ¾ cup water
- 6 oz. Fritos (as an interesting aside, I think that when this recipe was written, that was the standard size for a bag of Fritos. Now, needless to say, bag size has expanded and you will have Fritos leftover.)
- 1 can beans (I usually use black beans, but the original calls for kidney beans. Pinto beans are also really good in this dish.)
- 1 small can sliced black olives
- 2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or a Mexican blend)
- Toppings of your choice, such as: sour cream, diced avocado or guacamole, shredded lettuce, diced fresh tomato, pico de gallo (the toppings were another modification that Craig and I made to the original, and I think they make it much more interesting.)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brown the meat in a large sauté pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, chili seasoning, tomato paste, and water. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes, until mixture has thickened and water has evaporated, stirring occasionally.
2. Spray a round, high-sided casserole with cooking spray. Layer ingredients as follows: ½ of the Fritos, ½ of the meat mixture, ½ of the beans, ½ of the olives, and ½ of the cheese.
3. For the second layer, add ingredients as follows: remaining meat mixture, remaining beans, remaining olives, remaining Fritos, remaining cheese.
4. Bake at 350, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until cheese and chips start to brown on top. Let cool 5 minutes before serving with toppings as desired.
Yum – check out that crispy, Frito-y crust…