Posts tagged ‘venison’

January 13, 2012

Recipe Makeover: Frito Pie!

I never thought I would, but I did. And I blame it on the Texan I’m married to. Once or twice a year, my husband gets a faraway, wistful look in his eyes as he recounts how he and his childhood friend used to open a can of chili and pour it into a bag of Fritos.

“Mmmmm,” he’d say. “Frito pie. Those were the days.”

I’d respond with a roll of the eyes and a groan.

For me, Frito pie is right up down there with a tater-tot casserole or a green bean casserole made with Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup and Durkee French fried onions. It just seems antithetical to all things culinary and nutritive. But, love drives you to do strange things.

I heard my husband’s story again over Christmas, so it was fresh in my mind when earlier this week Saveur featured its version of Frito pie on its Facebook page. I thought, I have to see this recipe. The recipe comes from Mabel’s Smokehouse, a barbecue restaurant in Brooklyn, NY. Initially, I had my doubts—because what do New Yawkers know about barbecue and Southwestern food, right? But I was impressed with how heavy handed they are with the spices in their chili. They throw in 2 tablespoons each of cumin, chili powder, black pepper, oregano, 1 tablespoon of paprika and garlic powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper. At the least, I would have a very flavorful chili. So I decided to challenge myself to a Frito pie recipe makeover. Why not take gas station fare to a much higher level, and at the same time let my husband revisit some of his fondest childhood memories?

I substituted half the ground beef with ground elk to make it healthier, and I also added a can of kidney beans so the chili wouldn’t be so meaty. If I were to do it again, I would add two cans of beans. As the chili was simmering and thickening, I cut up 5 ounces of kale into thin ribbons and threw them into the pot. I know, I know. But, really, no one could tell. Lastly, though this is probably sacrilege to Frito pie aficionados, I substituted Trader Joe’s Organic Corn Chip Dippers for Fritos. They’re basically an organic version of Fritos. Seems silly, but it soothed my conscience.

The Frito pie was a hit! No surprise, right? My husband topped his with sour cream, shredded cheese and lots of sliced jalapeños. Meanwhile, the kids couldn’t get over the fact that they could eat corn chips with dinner. In my family’s eyes, I was Top Chef.

Of course, S wanted Frito pie for lunch. After all, that means she gets to eat more of those corn chip dippers! How can I blame her? Because I confess: I’ve turned into a Frito-pie convert.

Here’s the link to the recipe at

Frito Pie

October 6, 2011

Cooler Weather Calls for Venison Chili

Soups and stews aren’t just great for cooler weather; they also pack really well as leftovers for lunch the next day. In general, S really likes soups and stews. But she burned out on them a couple of years ago, when I packed soup for lunch nearly every day. So, I’ve been slowly bringing them back in.

Yesterday’s cold rain, a rare occurrence in sunny San Diego but apropos for the day Steve Jobs died, was a good reason to make chili. I figured it would warm my hands and feet, and comfort my heavy heart after hearing about the death of the creative genius that changed the way I and millions of others thought about and used computers—as well as design.

Earlier in the week, I had scored some frozen ground venison at Sprouts for $7.99/lb., and it came in handy for this recipe. After a quick Google search, I discovered an easy recipe for venison chili from Emeril Lagasse. Initially, I followed the recipe to the letter, but after the tomato/beef broth/red wine base had simmered for 45 minutes, I realized there wouldn’t be nearly enough for the amount of ground venison I had. I quickly doubled the base and added a can of kidney beans, which was just the right amount of liquid. The recipe I’m including below is the original recipe. I recommend doubling the liquids and spices.

The entire family loved the chili, and the kids had no idea it was venison. I served it with a dollop of sour cream on top, cornbread on the side and sautéed kale. S asked for me to pack it in her lunch today, with a baked potato. I heated the chili and put it in a Thermos container for soups, and then I wrapped a baked potato (or in my case, microwaved) in foil and put it in a separate stainless feel container. That way, she can pour the chili over the potato at lunch.

Venison Chili (from Emeril Lagasse)


4 strips bacon, diced

2 1/2 lbs. leg or shoulder of venison cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used 2 lbs. ground venison)

1 cup chopped onions

1 cup chopped green bell peppers

2 garlic cloves crushed

1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon or other dry red wine

1 TB tomato paste

1 TB chili powder

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. ground oregano

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 24-ounce can chopped tomatoes

1 cup beef stock

salt and pepper

1 cup grated Sonoma Jack cheese


In a large saucepan, cook the bacon until the fat is rendered, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the bacon using a slotted spoon and transfer to paper-lined plate to drain. Add the venison to the hot oil in the pan and cook, stirring occasionally and in batches if necessary, until well seared. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic and sauté over medium-low heat until tender. Stir in the wine and the tomato paste. Bring the mixture to a boil. Stir in the dry spices, chopped tomatoes and the beef stock. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the sauce is very thick and flavorful. Add the venison to the pot and cook, stirring, until just cooked through and hot, 3 to 4 minutes. Check the seasoning and serve with the grated cheese.





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