Episode 12 of Hilah’s Texas Kitchen: Chuckwagon Chili and Frito Pie
It’s 9 o’clock in the morning. Already a fire has been lit and partly burned down. Smoke wafts around your face, changing direction with the wind. You’re dressed like a “cowgirl” in jeans and a threadbare Western shirt and a hat just slightly too big for your head. Though it’s early, the sun has warmed up the earth to a toasty 90 degrees already and, combined with the fire pit, the ambient temperature is approximately a hundred and eighty degrees.
A blue enameled coffee pot hangs by a “java monkey” over one side of the fire, while a big black skillet sits on a grate over the other, shiny and seasoned, waiting for the meat.
That’s when Cookie appears from behind a cloud of smoke. Today, the Cookie is K.R. Wood, a Texan singer and songwriter, historian and chuck wagon cook. K.R. loves telling stories about Texas history and the cattle drives that allowed Texas to recover after the Civil War. K.R. loves Texas history so much, in fact, he wrote an entire album of songs — each about a different historical event in Texas. He also does chuck wagon demonstrations for schools around Texas, showing kids a little of what it was like to live on the open range and cook every meal over an open fire. It was damn hard and damn hot.
For more information about K.R. visit his website at Camp Cookieville to get his schedule and find out how to book Cookie at your next cowboy party or school “pioneer day”. All his albums are available through Texanna records.
K.R.’s chili recipe can be gleaned from watching the video (he’s got at least one secret ingredient that might surprise you!). You will also learn a bit about the old chuck wagon cooks and their responsibilities, and laugh a lot. Turns out, part of being a Cookie is being a clown. Who woulda thunk.
Frito Pie and Chuck Wagon Video
Frito Pie Recipe
- 4 guajillo chilies (or use ⅓ cup chili powder*)
- 2 pounds ground beef (or bison or venison)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 large jalapeño, diced
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 pound fresh tomatoes, diced (or 1- 16 ounce can)
- 8 ounces tomato puree
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Other stuff:
- Fritos, grated cheese, pickled peppers, and fresh diced onion
- Lightly toast the guajillo chilies over a flame or in a dry cast iron skillet, just until they change color in a few spots.
- Remove stems (and shake out seeds for less heat) and put in a small pot with 1 cup water. Bring to boil and boil about 10 minutes or until softened. Set aside to cool slightly. Mince the chilies or puree them in a blender. Keep the cooking liquid.
- Brown the meat over medium-high heat in a large pot until no longer pink.
- Add onion, jalapeño, garlic, tomatoes and tomato puree.
- Add guajillo chilies and cooking liquid.
- Add paprika, cumin and salt.
- Stir and simmer 45 minutes to an hour, uncovered.
- Serve with Fritos corn chips, cheese, onion and jalapeños.