Who doesn’t like chili, right? Everyone has a favorite style, and there are many styles out there. Maybe you like yours super spicy or vegetarian. Perhaps you only like your chili on a hot dog. In my house the question has always been: to bean, or not to bean? My other half loves a bean… any kind of bean. I grew up in a family of bean lovers, but I was not one of them. I don’t know why really, I was just never a fan. I have avoided them most of my life. Growing up in Texas you are taught that chili is beanless. Chili is meat, chilies, tomatoes, onions and spices. No beans. Even my bean loving family didn’t put beans in chili. I loved chili, specifically Wolf Brand chili with no beans. It was my favorite.
The first time my better half and I were going to make chili, she wanted to put several different kinds of beans in it. I thought… BLASPHEMY! I believe I even said, “Um. Why would you put beans in chili?” So, we had our first discussion on what made a proper chili. For her it included three to four different kinds of beans. For me not even one. We have come to a compromise. When I make our normal chili, I add some chili beans, just chili beans no other. I do reserve the right, on certain dishes, to exclude the beans but it doesn’t happen that often. Love can make you do crazy things and it has lead me to add beans where there should be no beans. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Just as I had to learn that no beans were a regional thing, I have learned that a chili dish I mentioned in my last post is more of a regional dish than I realized. I grew up eating Frito Pie at fairs, carnivals and at home. It is kind of a staple in this part of the south. I didn’t realize it was just a regional thing. Allow me to explain this southern delicacy. Around here you can even find it at some fast food restaurants. It is a fast dish that can be as simple or as complicated as you would like it to be. Generally, if you order it at a fast food place or at a fair, it will consist of: corn chips (Frito style), canned chili, chopped onions and shredded cheese. Quick to throw together and not expensive to make. You can feed a crowd without breaking the bank. When you make it yourself at home, you can make it a little more to your specific tastes.
First let me explain the structure of the dish. You construct it in your individual bowls. Corn chips (Frito style) at the bottom of the bowl, pour your favorite chili on top of that, add a little shredded cheese. Then, if you are so inclined, add some freshly chopped raw onion. That is a traditional preparation. You will find that all around this region. In our home we add a dollop of sour scream to finish out the dish, because I like sour cream with chili. You can add any kind of garnishes you would like. Some people add a little ketchup, because they like the flavor of chili and ketchup together. Some people add some freshly chopped cilantro and chopped tomato. You can really top it however you would like to make it your own. That is what is so great about it, it is super customizable. Each member if my family has something a little different in their bowl, and it tastes exactly as they like.
If you have never heard of it, give it a try next time you make chili. It is great on a cold night, or when you are craving some comfort food.