by Patrick on March 2nd, 2014 No Comments ·
It’s Oscar time! And as I was deciding what snacks to lay in for the graveyard shift that is watching the Oscars live here in the UK, I got to pondering over the food movies I really love. Which slice of epicurean cinema has left me feeling the most pleasantly sated and lingered on the palate of my imagination the longest? What film would win my personal Food Movie Oscar?
Before I get to my nominees and winner, let me first make clear what the term “food movie” means to me. I define it as a film wherein food-how it’s prepared, how it’s eaten, and/or how it affects the characters- is a driving force in the film, both narratively and thematically. So that unfortunately excludes movies where food is featured heavily but rather tangentially really, hunger-inducing though they may be. Otherwise a lot of these movies would have made my list, movies like Woody Allen’s “Hannah And Her Sisters”, which features a series of delicious-looking Thanksgiving feasts, not to mention the efforts of the Stanislavski Catering Company. Or “The Big Chill”, which features the “throw it at a wall” method of testing the readiness of spaghetti alongside a lot more cooking and eating. Joan Crawford spends a lot of time in the kitchen in the fabulous noir “Mildred Pierce”, but this is a mother-daughter thriller. There are lots of delicious food moments in “Heartburn”, especially Carbonara in bed. I’m not always a fan of Martin Scorcese, but I do enjoy his evident appreciation for food in his films, most notably all the cooking that goes on throughout “Goodfellas”, from the hilariously delicious prison catering,to the absolutely yummy meal being prepared just as Ray Liotta is about to be get nabbed by the cops once and for all. Scorcese’s interminable “Ages And Ages Of Innocence”s is enlivened for me only by the incredibly elaborate banquets that pepper the film.
Now I realize that the definition of food movie that I’ve offered still leaves room for a very wide range of films, not least those involving cannibalism. After all, from “Soylent Green” to “Eating Raoul” and “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover”, man eating man has played quite a varied role in cinema. (It occurs to me as I mention “Soylent Green” that Charlton Heston spent a great deal of his career in the 60′s and 70′s receiving some nasty cultural shocks at the ends of his films.) But don’t get overly distressed; I have no intention of passing off either “Alive” or “C.H.U.D.” as food movies, whatever their relative merits.
So I suppose I’ve narrowed my definition a bit further: The five films that make my list of nominees, that truly moved me, are all about characters who cook, who express themselves sometimes entirely through food, whether they are home cooks or professionals, man or beast. Food- and the perils and sacrifices of its preparation- is the heart not only of these characters, but also of these films. So regretfully “Julie & Julia” doesn’t make my list. However much food and cooking appears in the film, it’s essentially a story about the writing of a book and the writing of a blog; food is really more of a means than the end. “Chocolat”, however beautifully made, also fails to make the cut. because although most of the film’s characters are transformed by chocolate, it’s really a story about a witch of sorts facing up to her nomadic nature. Plus I must admit to something of a bias: I personally don’t really care for chocolate. I wanted to edge “Sweeney Todd” on to my list of nominees, but although I adore the treacle-black satire inherent in the piece, that’s the gift of the far superior stage version. So no cannibalistic films make the cut. Likewise, I considered Morgan Spurlock’s fascinating documentary”Supersize Me”, but eventually rejected it. As scary and illuminating as his experiment with fast food was, I still think it was a fundamentally stupid thing to do.
So here, without further ado, are my nominees and personal winner for the Food Movie Oscar:
Big Night. (1996) Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci’s sad and tangy tortellino of a film about two brothers trying to keep their restaurant afloat in 1950′s New Jersey. Cooking is their life and their ambition, and the cooking on display is simply spectacular. The timpano at the film’s climax is an astounding culinary feat that reflects the layers of hope and artistry and determination that resound throughout the film, and the simple little omelet the brothers share at the end is simply heartbreaking. (Plus Stanley Tucci is briefly nude, which is pretty scrummy too. )
Like Water For Chocolate. (1992) Food is sex and love and desire and grief in this Mexican feast of magical realism. Her thwarted love for a man causes family cook Tita to season chicken with rose petals, causing insatiable lust, and a wedding cake with her tears, driving an entire wedding party to ruin. Beautifully sensuous and odd, this is one delectable melodrama wherein food is both a gift and a weapon.
Eat Drink Man Woman. (1994) Food is the what keeps families together and the expression of paternal love in this beautiful early film from Ang Lee. The story of a widowed senior chef who is losing his sense of taste as ha and his three increasingly wayward daughters navigate life in a changing Taiwan is like a perfect Chinese broth: light and clear, but surprisingly and warmingly complex and just a touch spicy.
Ratatouille. (2007) Disney does food deliciously in this utterly charming tale of a rat who dreams of being a great chef. Not only does the film take the care to get the food details right and nail the hectic atmosphere of a busy restaurant kitchen, but that climactic dish of the titular ratatouille is surprisingly moving. The message that anyone can be a great cook is delivered sweetly enough to get kids into the kitchen themselves.
And drum roll please for the final nominee, and my personal Food Movie Oscar Winner:
Babette’s Feast. (1987) Far and away the best film about the transformative power of cookery ever made, this Danish film is the slightest but most nourishing of tales. Two elderly sisters living in a remote and devoutly religious coastal community in 19th Century Denmark take in a Parisian refugee as their new housekeeper. She cooks for them for 14 quiet years, then one day learns she has won the french lottery. Instead of using her winnings to escape back to France, she uses the money to create an astounding feast for the sisters and their guests in thanks for them having taken her in so long ago. The resulting meal, exquisitely portrayed in both its preparation and consumption, brings love and light and life back to everyone who eats it. Simply and truly divine.
So there are my picks for the Food movie Oscar. Agree? Disagree? Think I may have made some egregious omissions or errors? We at Fabulous Foodie would love to hear your views.
by Patrick on February 22nd, 2014 3 Comments ·
While pondering what to have for lunch a while back, I chanced upon a discovery that has changed my life.
Faced with a loaf of homemade banana bread that needed to be eaten before it went stale, and some bacon that was also perilously close to expiry, I decided to combine the two for a sandwich. The result, a lightly toasted sweet, fruity and nutty sandwich with salty bacon cooked until just before crispness, was so mind-bogglingly delicious that I immediately made another. I had to be sure, you see, that my senses hadn’t been boggled along with my mind. I am more than happy to report that I was right the first time. So devoted am I now to the banana bread bacon sandwich that both items will appear in my kitchen with much greater frequency.
But here’s what got me thinking: While I was trying to decide whether or not to chance the sandwich, I decided to solicit opinions about it from my friends on a certain well-known social media website. My friends on this site are a fairly even split between Europeans and Americans. The results of my informal poll were very interesting, if not altogether surprising. My American friends voted unanimously for the sandwich combo, while most of my European friends were either aghast, or wondered if I had somehow become pregnant.
Now you could easily surmise that this is because banana bread is much more familiar to Americans, and because Americans have an almost unholy fascination with bacon that is unmatched across the pond. Of course Europeans also love bacon- they’re not insane- but the recognized social phenomenon of “Bacon Mania” that has been sweeping the US and Canada since the 1980s, wherein conventions are held and bacon is added to everything imaginable from chocolate to ice cream to whiskey, is regarded with raised eyebrows and slightly pursed lips at least here in the UK, where a more likely gastronomic credo would be “If it can’t outrun you, butter it.”
The American enthusiasm for bacon is unbridled, but so is the American enthusiasm for unlikely culinary combinations. And it’s an enthusiasm that goes beyond the merely personal and reaches out to the social, and, more importantly, commercial culinary realms. After all, we are each of us, regardless of our nationality, individuals with very specific personal tastes. And we have all happened upon our own delightful taste combinations. Driven by late night hunger, or perhaps a period of penury, we have all rummaged through our fridges and cupboards and come up with unexpectedly delicious concoctions of, say, eggs and Marmite, or maybe fish sticks and custard.
For the most part, however, we treat them as our own, to be jealously guarded or even perhaps kept shamefully hidden from public view. My impression is that this is more true here in Europe. Here, I find myself gauging the crowd for disapproval before I announce that I personally adore salt on mangoes, while in the US, such a comment would immediately elicit a stream of similar pronouncements regarding personal tastes from my friends, followed by a lively conversation about what other fruits might benefit from being salted. (It would also inevitably lead to an informal forum on whether or not mangoes would be improved by bacon. No doubt they would.)
Now of course in this day and age, when ordering a pizza here in the UK you can have whatever topping you like. From chorizo to tandoori chicken, all sorts of toppings that bear no cultural relation whatsoever to the traditional Italian pizza are on offer. But bear in mind that these “non-trad” toppings are brought to you by American pizza chains such as Domino’s or Pizza Hut. No traditional Italian pizzeria would deign to sully their product with such widely divergent flavours. The majority of Italians may be Catholic, but their culinary tastes are not. Instead it’s Americans who have, in their conjoined quests for new taste sensations and pleasing as many customers as possible, thrown cultural propriety out the kitchen window and begun stuffing pizza crusts with hot dogs.
But where does this American taste for unexpected flavour combinations and wildly mixed culinary references stem from? And is it always a good thing?
Well that American love for wacky and innovative taste sensations stems from two things: tradition, and a somewhat irreverent disposition toward taste, by which I mean taste with a capital “T”. The accusation is all too often leveled at Americans (and at Canadians too, but then they have a somewhat lower gastronomic world profile), that they have no sense of tradition. In fact the opposite is true. They have an abundance of traditions, all tumbled in the melting pot ( or as the historian Carl Neumann Degler more accurately put it, the salad bowl) of a country whose sense of identity is borne entirely out of exploration and the crashing together of often very culturally divergent immigrant populations. Americans from different national origins have held onto their traditions over the generations, but in living together for so long, and for the most part at such close quarters, they have been forced to encounter, to taste, and to season their own culinary traditions with others that run alongside them.
Consider the millions of immigrants pouring into the country through New York City over the last two hundred years, and the different smells and tastes that would have greeted them in the packed streets. The sheer imperative of hunger, combined with cost, would have driven them to try foods they’d never considered, or even encountered before. That experience has not so much trickled as gushed down through generations, so it’s easy to see why now at most mid-level restaurants, from chains like TGI Fridays and Hard Rock Cafe through to urban eateries, it’s not at all uncommon to see Chinese potstickers on the starters menu right next to Tex Mex nachos and Italian meatballs, and fettuccine Alfredo next to teriyaki salmon with bok choi on the mains. Your average American diner can go ’round the world in just three courses. That magpie approach to gastronomic cultural appropriation in turn frees a larger society to play with flavors and textures on a more basic level. If you can have sushi to start and follow it up with schnitzel, what’s to stop you playing with what constitutes savory and sweet, and when to have them? Why not have breakfast for dinner?
Therein lies a clear example of the difference in culinary approaches between the US and Europe. In the US, when you think of a “traditional” breakfast, you visualize pancakes and bacon doused with maple syrup. That’s a carb-loaded sweet meal with just a little salty hit. To flip the day and serve that meal for supper is something out of the ordinary. It’s a treat for kids of all ages because it’s fun. It’s a playful approach to dinner. The traditional British breakfast fry-up of eggs, beans, sausages (or bacon, of course), is a decidedly protein rich and savoury affair. Eggs aside, substitute any of those ingredients with chips, and you already have a very normal British dinner. Having breakfast for dinner here in the UK is not about flipping the day, but rather about raiding the fridge. It seems the French, Italians, and Spanish barely eat breakfast at all as they consider lunch to be more important, so a cup of coffee and a small pastry would hardly constitute dinner. They would also view that sweet and heavy American meal as being in rather poor taste, regardless of what time of day it was served.
And here’s where that “Taste” comes in (or goes out, depending on which side of the pond you’re eating from). Taste, as in matching suitable ingredients and cooking them the right way to make a meal that is both delicious and culturally correct, is born of tradition. Italian cuisine may be all about the ingredients and French cuisine may be all about the process, but they share that tradition, those generations of cooks preparing and perfecting the same meals over and over through the years until they become representative of each nation’s culture and food philosophy. Even the regional variations within those traditions are themselves micro-cosmically representative. Other European countries may not have the same global influence as France and Italy, but they all have their gastronomic signatures, from the British roast to the Spanish paella and the many and wondrous things the Germans do with sausages, and each of these dishes are also born out of jealously guarded traditions and have their rules and procedures. In Britain, for example, a Yorkshire pudding should only really be served with roast beef, and there had better be horseradish on the side. In Italy you mustn’t serve cheese with seafood. In both France and Italy, the salad comes after the main course, not before.
These rules don’t hold true in the US. There, Yorkshire puddings have evolved into popovers, which can be served with anything from a stew to a piece of baked chicken, shrimps are added to fettuccine Alfredo, and often the salad is the main course. The US after all, is the country that gave the world the salad bar, which, in giving diners the choice and ability to create the perfect salad of their choice, is the antithesis of the carefully composed classic salads of French and Italian cuisine. And that’s because serving the customer’s taste, rather than taste as a philosophy, is deeply ingrained in American commercial food culture. In the US, going to a restaurant and then ordering off-menu is completely acceptable, from “having it your way” at Burger King, up to the highest of high end eateries. While it must happen here in Europe, it’s not really a part of the restaurant culture. Why on earth would you go to a particular restaurant, and then not order any of the food they’re serving? It’s not that the dining customer isn’t respected in Europe, rather it’s that respecting the taste, the philosophy, of that given restaurant, is perhaps respected that little bit more.
Make no mistake. This American devotion to the customer’s tastes is by no means altruistic. It’s purely commercially driven in a country whose massive food industry feeds off the uniquely American avidity for food in all its forms. The business that wins in that environment, whether it be a restaurant or a snack food brand, or even a fruit supplier ,is not necessarily the business that offers the best, but rather the business that offers the most. For if there is a tradition that Americans can claim as their own, it is that of the hard cross-sell. A food industry that in 2012 was worth$1.3 trillion creates an extremely competitive environment, and Americans are constantly bombarded with pitches for new and wonderful flavors, and, more importantly, the many and varied uses for these new and wonderful flavours. And while we’re seeing this more and more on social media, it’s by no means something new. Think of Baskin Robbins’ 31 Flavors, around since 1945.
Many of my generation, including myself, had mothers who cooked from the philosophy of “101 Dinners to make with Campbell’s Cream Of Mushroom Soup.” The “57 Varieties” slogan for Heinz Food products predates the 20th Century by four years. Just have a look at this collection of mid-century recipes, all of which are derived from pitches for branded products, and many of which feature appalling uses for Lime Jell-O. And that yummy banana bread that started me off on this train of culinary pondering? It’s not born out of homespun American kitchen traditions, but is instead a direct result of banana bread recipes published in the 1930s by banana supply companies desperate to widen the market (and extend the shelf life) for their wares by putting over-ripe bananas to use.
With all this exhortation to try new and exciting food products and tastes, and to combine them in an almost infinite variety of ways, it’s not surprising that Americans can be seen to have a somewhat undisciplined approach to how they eat. The American need for a sense of bounty at the table, born as it was out of immigrant hunger, has morphed not only into vast portion sizes at almost any eatery, but also into all-you-can-eat offers and on in to bizarre (and frankly dangerous) food consumption challenges along the lines of “eat the entire cow and you get it free.” The American sense of play with food is not always a good thing at all. TV shows like “Man Vs Food” are frighteningly commonplace in a country with the worst obesity problem in the First World. Even if it’s not about eating the most food, but rather about ingesting the hottest chili or enduring brain freeze from ice cream, it appears that in America we have lost sight of food as nourishment and sustenance, but instead have turned it into something to be quite literally played with. If it seems like Europeans (and Asians, for that matter) can be too serious about their culinary heritage and how that’s evolving, it also seems like, when it comes to food, Americans aren’t serious enough.
Now I realize I’m making sweeping generalizations here. Of course there are millions of Americans who eat healthily and millions of Americans who stick rigidly to the culinary traditions into which they were born, just as there are millions of Europeans who are more than happy to experiment wildly, will cross cultural borders at the dinner table, or who have lost respect for what and how they are eating. The obesity epidemic is growing swiftly here too. Both continents have been driven by commercial pressures into a situation where, for the first time in history, the poor are fatter than the rich. Poverty-based malnutrition has found a new form.
And as for experimentation, the wonderfully playful new philosophy of Molecular Gastronomy is born from astoundingly creative European chefs like Ferran Adria at El Bulli in Spain, Rene Redzepi in Denmark, and of course our own Heston Blumenthal here in the UK. (Though it’s worth noting that Blumenthal’s approach to experimentation was a direct response to what he saw as a culinary culture grown increasingly hidebound.) And they are finding willing audiences for this philosophy in their home countries, unlike Wolfgang Puck, the legendary Austrian chef who found a home – and a market- for his philosophy of fusion cooking (matching Asian ingredients with European techniques) in the US in the 1970s. Indeed, at least here in Britain the Spanish chorizo is enjoying a nationwide craze not dissimilar to Bacon Mania, appearing in bolognese sauces, shepherd’s pies, and even chocolate bars.
But just as that current chorizo craze is but a blip in the history of a people who will inevitably return to their traditional shepherd’s pie or spaghetti bolognese, it’s hard to see how any European people will allow their gastronomic national tastes and rules to slip very far, just as it’s hard to see that the American propulsion towards new, and more, will ever slow down. Their motivations in regard to food are so inherently different, tied together by history though they are. Boiling them down to their most basic levels, consider the example of the Irish diaspora born from the Great Potato Famine of 1845 to 1852. The Irish people had two choices: either to stay, and hang bitterly on, making the most of what little they had; or to get as far away, both physically and psychically, from that hunger, and never to encounter it again. So fully one quarter of the Irish population fled to America (somewhat ironic, when you remember that potatoes came from the Americas in the first place) and became Irish-Americans, born out of an ancient culture, yes, but now part of- and bearing new generations into-a larger heterogeneous culture whose binding force was that determination not to allow that hunger, that want of food, back into their lives. Underneath all the wacky flavors, the salad bars, and the pie-eating contests, the American sense of play with food is deadly serious. And the three quarters of the Irish population who stayed? Well they hung on, and starved, and starved again, and survived, and so learned to not only respect but to revere what food they had, and what they made of it. And culturally, that’s an extremely difficult heritage to let go of, or to be seen to disrespect.
Neither side of the Atlantic is entirely wrong-or right-here. It’s a basic tenet of cookery to learn and respect the rules before you break the rules. And where would we be at the table without culinary exploration? But using our sense as well as our senses is no bad thing either. I’m all for, and in fact ravingly evangelical about, people experimenting with their cooking, not to mention being at least willing to try new flavor combinations. I’m far less enthusiastic about new snack food sensations, or commercially driven fads. When visiting the US as a child, the bewildering array of potato chip flavors, and soda flavors, and packet sauce mixes that do it all for you in American supermarkets would dazzle me. Now, when I see British supermarkets looking just the same, I find it depressing. And I don’t want to eat sushi in Naples. One of the joys of traveling in Europe is that, both culturally and gastronomically, wherever you get to, you’re there and nowhere else. I certainly don’t want Europe to become like the US and stuff pizza crusts with hot dogs just as I don’t want the US to lose its sense of adventure and generosity.
So when I posit that Americans have more playful palates than Europeans, it’s neither a compliment nor criticism of either place. When I consider the history behind it, I have great respect and affection for both. The Briton in me will now have a cup of tea to celebrate that. The American in me will have that cup of tea alongside a banana bread and bacon sandwich.
Tags: History and Holidays · Notes and Passing Fancies
by Dungeekin on February 2nd, 2014 4 Comments ·
When I decided that I was going to marry Deb, my prospective father-in-law took me to one side, handed me a bourbon* and shared with me his rules for a long and happy marriage. Chief among these rules was Rule Three, which was, “if in doubt, say ‘yes dear’”.
Good advice and, as we approach our first Second Anniversary (long story, don’t ask), so far highly successful.
So when Deb insisted, on pain of pain, that I actually start writing about the Transatlantic Kitchen, I figured it was best to apply Rule Three, say ‘yes dear’ and make a start on explaining about my kitchen, my food, and the pleasure it brings.
The Transatlantic Kitchen is my ‘happy place,’ a refuge. It’s where I get away from long working hours and nights away from home. It’s a place where all that matters is concentrating on what I’m doing, where the stresses melt away and are replaced by the zing of citrus on the tongue and the scent of garlic in the air. The Transatlantic Kitchen was one of the biggest reasons we bought Transatlantic Towers; it’s big enough to be a social space, is well laid-out and has plenty of working room for an experimental cook to spend many happy hours fiddling with his dishes and massaging his meat.
garlic features heavily at Transatlantic Kitchen
Facebook followers will know that Transatlantic Kitchen is open mostly at weekends, when I’ll spend whole days prepping, marinating and experimenting to fill the fridge and freezer for the coming week**, as well as providing the meals for the whole family (Deb, Sprog and I) during the weekend itself. And I adore it. It’s a passion bordering on obsession – not to primp and fuss and produce esoteric artworks that wouldn’t be out of place at ‘El Bulli’, but to make good food from all over the world, strong on flavour and taste while working on a reasonably low budget and minimising waste. Oh, and taking ENDLESS photographs of what I make, to make me smile when I can’t be at home at the stove.
Eating is pleasure. Making something to eat should be too. For me at least, slaving over a hot stove feels more like freedom than servitude.
So I shall follow orders, and write about Transatlantic Kitchen. I’ll try and detail the recipes that come out of the Kitchen regularly (harder than it sounds, as I cook by touch and instinct and tend to forget to write anything down). I’ll try and describe what I’ve learned from almost twenty years of faffing about with food, what works for my pantry and, most of all, how much sheer joy there is in just messing about with food. I’ll also try to cover what works for us with pre-preparation (and no, I don’t plan meals a week ahead) and hopefully Deb can cover the science and research bit. I’m no good at that bit – I just never grew out of playing with my food.
I’ve promised Deb that I’ll post weekly, and I hope that reading about the food that comes out of Transatlantic Kitchen is as much of a sensory pleasure as making it can be.
*Several bourbons, actually. Large ones. I’ll spare you the details – those who know the gentleman know what I mean.
**Or month. As of today, there are 19 fully pre-prepared dishes sitting in the freezer.
Tags: Behind the Scenes · Transatlantic Kitchen
by Deb on January 31st, 2014 No Comments ·
Well, well – Brandy Alexander Day once again. Brandy Alexanders were – for a very short period, a very long time ago (high school) – my drink of choice. I’m sure I had only the vaguest idea what they were but they SOUNDED sophisticated (everything linked to the BBC adaptation of Brideshead Revisited sounded sophisticated to me) and they tasted rather like a boozy milk shake.
But never mind. Let us pass over that period of time when hair was larger, stirrup pants were all the rage and I should have been home doing more homework and less underage drinking.
Despite getting the stirrup pants and body wave wrong, I was right about the Brandy Alexander in one sense. It is like a sort of milkshake. It’s is a perfectly straightforward cocktail made with 1 part each of cream, crème de cacao and brandy. Put it all together, shake with ice until they are thoroughly mixed and have become frothy and frosted. Pour your frothy mixture into a martini glass, (garnish with a bit of nutmeg if you like) and voila! You have the same cocktail enjoyed by the guests at the Royal wedding of Princess Mary and Lord Lascelles in 1922.
It existed before that but that’s when it took it’s place in the Pantheon of classic cocktails. Like a lot of drinks, this one was based on an earlier one. In this case, Brandy Alexander is a variation on an Alexander, where gin is used instead of brandy. The Brandy Alexander version eclipsed the original so thoroughly that now the IBA list of “official cocktails” does not even include the original.
Some say that the drink was named after Tsar Alexander II but drama critic Alexander Woollcott (he of the Algonquin Round Table) put about the idea that he had been named for him. Typical Round Tabler. But this wasn’t taken too seriously even at the time.
I haven’t had a Brandy Alexander in years – and despite today being the day to celebrate them, I don’t intend to have one now. But this is not to say I won’t have one at some point in the future. There’s another variation I’ve come across recently – the Coffee Alexander, where you substitute a coffee liqueur for the brandy sounds like something worth trying at least once as an after dinner thing.
Tags: History and Holidays
by Deb on January 29th, 2014 No Comments ·
I had no idea until fairly recently that there was a corn chip day but it’s definitely one of those things I can totally support celebrating. In fact, it’s definitely two of the things I can support celebrating since both tortilla chips and corn chips are made of corn and therefore TECHNICALLY corn chips. But tortilla chips get a lot of attention as it is. I’m keeping my Corn Chip Day more focused,
Of all the chips ( or crisps as they call them in the UK) – potato, tortilla, veggie, etc., corn chips are the ones that featured most heavily in my childhood. Specifically Fritos corn chips as I was in Texas and San Antonio is the home of Fritos. But hey – if generic or store brand was all that was available, I’d have happily scarfed those down as well. Oh how I loved them. I put them on and in everything. Yes, I ate them straight out of the bag but I also put them on top of chili (or ladled chili on top of a pile of corn chips) or laid a layer of them down on hamburgers (something I also did with French fries from time to time).
I also used to use them for the basis of my grade school era nachos. In retrospect, I’m not sure any cheese in existence can counter balance that much salt but at that time, the salt was the point. I hadn’t yet developed a nuanced view of cheese. These days, my nachos involve tortilla chips and are a bit more sophisticated. And yes, I said sophisticated and nacho in the same sentence. Don’t judge until you’ve had my nachos. Which will have to wait because Nacho Day isn’t until November 6. Today is about corn chips and the best use of corn chips? Frito pie.
Now, before you get all worried about brand-specificity – it’s called Frito pie simply because Fritos were and are so widely available but there’s nothing that says you can’t make “corn chip pie” with whichever corn chip you have on hand.
To make Frito Pie, you need three things.
- chili (make it fresh, use leftovers, open a can – whatever chili you like best)
- cheese (your favorite Tex Mex mix or cheddar)
- corn chips.
You can also add additional topping or ingredients like chopped onions, olives, etc. But these are utterly optional. Also optional? How you assemble your Frito pie and in what proportions.
- Some people mix the chips in with chili and top it with cheese, cooking the whole thing in a casserole until the cheese is melted and golden.
- Some people open a bag of corn chips and just ladle some chili into the bag, mixing it with whatever utensil they have at hand.
- Some people cover the bottom of a bowl with chips and pile the chili and cheese on top of that.
- Some people like to make a crumble topping of chips and add it to a chili casserole at the last minute.
Not so much a recipe as an assembly job so it’s almost impossible to mess up. The perfect food for eating in front of the TV on game day. Go on, try it.
Tags: History and Holidays · Recipes