The Sloppy Joe sandwich and Frito chili pie are two icons of American comfort food. Their combination brings out the meaty richness of the former and the crunchy, gooey consistency of the latter. Add the creaminess of sliced fresh avocado and the zesty, zesty bite of pickled red onion and you’ve created the ultimate flavor bomb.
I first encountered the delicacy known as Chili Pie Frito while working with the Texas State Fair. It’s essentially a much thicker sloppy joe with southwestern seasonings, a velvety cheese spine, and a layer of everyone’s favorite corn chips in a somewhat soggy, somewhat crunchy, fully salted incarnation. . To balance out the richness of the Frito chili pie itself, as well as the butteriness of the avocado that I like to add to all the Southwestern dishes I serve, I added a classic Mexican taqueria condiment: pickled red onions. I highly recommend making a large batch of these because not only do they keep for several weeks, but they’re also a great addition to any meal.
Technical tip: Add the onion and a pinch of salt before adding the meat. Add the meat when the onions start to turn translucent and keep the heat medium to medium-low. You can make the chili ahead of time, then assemble and cook the casserole just before serving.
Exchange options: Ground turkey, ground chicken, and even ground chorizo can replace beef in this dish.
In a large saucepan over high heat, heat the oil. Add ground beef and onion and sauté until meat is browned, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the garlic, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the canned tomatoes and their juice and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Spread the corn chips evenly in the bottom of a rectangular baking dish. Pour chili over fries, top with shredded cheese and cook until cheese is completely melted, 4 to 6 minutes.
To serve, spoon the Frito chili onto potato rolls and serve the sandwiches topped with sliced avocado and pickled red onion.
Excerpt from “Straight Up Tasty: Meals, Memories and Mouthfuls from My Travels” by Adam Richman. Published by Clarkson Potter © 2015.