Born and schooled in Texas, I ate traditional Frito-Chili Pie with the best of them (aka bag-o-corn-chips with chili ladled in.) But by comparison? This Frito-Chili Pie kicks butt! It’s a real pie, for one thing–with an easy, press-it-in-the-tin piecrust that includes corn-chips and cheese. And even though the chili has some beans in it (anathema to Texans) it’s also got a pile of fresh peppers, melted cheddar, sour cream and fresh snipped oregano. I’m including this vintage-made-better recipe as an example of 120-more that pastry-chef and Hoosier Mama Pie Company owner Paula Haney has included in her “Hoosier Mama Book of Pie“.
Haney founded Hoosier Mama in 2009 with a teeny storefront shop in my old-home neighborhood, Ukrainian Village. Before that, she was head pastry chef at several Chicago-area high-end restaurants, including Trio, where she made desserts to match Grant Achatz inventive dishes. The savory recipes in the book, like this chili pie developed by Haney’s Hoosier Mama cohort Allison Scott, are as good as the sweet ones. And the techniques Haney gives for making cloud-like cream pies (using chef-quality sheets of gelatin) eclipse home-cook standard methods. But the chapter I hold most dear is dedicated to “Desperation Pies” born of Midwestern ingenuity: Old-fashioned pies that take simplest-staples from bare winter larders (vinegar, milk, sugar, oatmeal) and transform them into Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie, Vinegar Chess Pie, Oatmeal Pie, & Buttermilk Pie. Go buy the book!
Makes Four, six-inch pies, OR two, 4-inch tarts plus one 8-inch pie
Frito Crumb Crust Ingredients
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 3 oz corn chips, divided
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal (we used Bob’s Red Mill, medium grind)
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 ounce shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1, 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed well and drained
- Frito-crumb crust shells
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
- 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and cored, diced small
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cored, diced small
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 poblano pepper, roasted and diced small
- 1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced (NOTE: Omit for a milder chili)
- 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped
- 1 to 2 Tbsp chili powder (more or less to suit your taste)
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp finely chopped fresh Mexican oregano
- 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper (Note: Omit for a milder chili)
- 1, 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 8-ounces light ale or wheat beer
- juice of two limes (more or less to taste)
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- shredded sharp Cheddar cheese for topping
- sour cream, for topping
- finely snipped Mexican oregano and crushed corn chips as garnish
- Make pie shells: Stir vinegar into water and set aside.
- Places two ounces of chips in food processor and pulse until chips are crushed into small, uniform crumbs. (About 30 seconds.) This should make about 1/2 cup of crumbs.
- Add flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar and black pepper to the processor and pulse three more times to bring the ingredients together.
- Add cubed butter and pulse more–just until sandy. About 20 or 30 seconds
- Break up remaining 1 ounce of chips with fingers (or slightly crush with a rolling pin.) Add these chips and the shredded cheese to the food processor and pulse 3 times.
- Add 1/4 cup of the vinegar water and pulse 2 or three more times. Open processor and squeeze a walnut-sized clump of the dough in your palm. If it’s still too crumbly and does not hold together, add more vinegar water, 1 Tbsp at a time, until the dough holds together when squeezed.
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Butter pie tins. Press crumbs up the sides and across the bottoms of the tin. Prick the crust bottoms all over with tines of a fork.
- Bake shells 10 to 12 minutes or until the shells are crisp, but not browned. Remove from oven.
- Make chili: Roast poblano pepper by placing it on a cookie sheet under the broiler for three minutes on each side. Place charred pepper in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside
- In a heavy saute pan, melt butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Stir in the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until onion is translucent.
- Add bell pepper and galic; reduce heat to medium. Cook for an addtional 5 minutes until garlic is fragrant, but not browned.
- In a separate heavy skillet, brown the beef. Pour off fat. Set meat aside.
- Add poblano, jalapeno (if using) chipotle peppers, chili powder, cumin, oregano and cayenne pepper (if using) to the onion mixture. Stir to combine. Cook for three or four minutes, adding a few tsp of olive oil if the ingredients start to stick or dry out.
- Stir in beef and crushed tomatoes. Add beans and beer. Heat to boiling. Cover. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir occasionally and add more ale if the pot dries out. Remove from heat and season to taste with lime juice, salt, and black pepper.
- Preheat oven to 400. Spread cook sheet with parchment paper. Set pie tins on the parchment and fill each with chili. (You’ll have some chili left over to eat on the side.)
- Top each pie with cheese; bake for 10 to 15 minutes until cheese is completely melted.
- Garnish with sour cream, oregano and crushed corn chips. Serve immediately.