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Chili Tales: A Texan's Take on Classic Comfort

Updated: Apr 2

On Wednesday, February 7, 2024, an article in the New York Times Food Section spotlighted Chili and Frito Pie for the Super Bowl. After reading it, I felt compelled to share the true essence of these Texan staples, as I experienced them growing up in Dallas.

As I immersed myself in Tex-Mex cuisine and then ventured into the intricacies of chili-making, I found store-bought mixes lacking authenticity and laden with additives. Determined to capture the genuine flavor of chili, I meticulously experimented with spices, adhering to the Texan philosophy that "beans are a sacrilege" in Texas Chili.

Once perfected, the question arose: what to pair with this beanless chili? Eschewing the traditional chunky beef, I opted for a smoother textured ground meat, also ideal for topping hot dogs instead of store-bought chili sauce.

A downtown hot dog joint introduced me to the chili dog and the iconic Frito Pie. This humble yet satisfying dish featured Fritos drenched in chili, sprinkled with cheddar cheese, and served in the chip bag itself! Conveniently packaged Fritos cups soon made recreating this dish at home a breeze.

Discovering Ro-Tel tomatoes in the grocery store opened doors to new culinary adventures, including the beloved King Ranch Casserole. Melding Velveeta cheese with Ro-Tel tomatoes became a household favorite dip, perfect for gatherings.

Classic nachos, featuring individual tortilla chips adorned with refried beans, cheddar or queso fresco cheese, and a slice of pickled jalapenos, became a staple at Mexican restaurants and home gatherings alike. I remember when at a Texas Rangers game their twist on nachos, a handful of tortilla chips, smothered with melted cheese, topped with jalapeno peppers, was introduced. It was a less traditional approach, albeit a good one!

While the New York Times article may highlight a Texas restaurant's rendition of Frito Pie, the addition of pinto beans, crema, and brisket feels excessive to a purist like me. Join us at an Art of Chili class to explore more ways to savor these classics...true to their Texan roots.

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