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 RecipePrint
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
- Yield: 10 1x
- 4 guajillo chilies (or use 1/3 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.
*If using chili powder, just add it when you add the paprika and cumin.
Simple but sounds really tasty!
It is definitely both of those things, Dana! Hope you try it. 🙂
OMG It’s 11:30 at night and I am watching this video and now I am starving! This will be the way I make chili next time. Lookin’ good in that ten-gallon hat, Hilah! Fitting finale for Hilah’s Texas Kitchen. I am staying tuned……
Thanks, Larry! We thought it was a great finale, too. That guy, man, he cracks me UP! 🙂 Hope you like the chili recipe. And thank you so much for all your support, my friend.
Hilah, I have so enjoyed your Texas Kitchen series. I hope that the bean counters are payin’ attention to you and all the good you’ve done for your state as well as your neighbors that are just a little bit jealous that you’re not in their state! (like me) I think you’re finer than frog hair (not to steal cookies line) and it’s just gonna be a sad day if they don’t let you do this some more! You are so charismatic, flat out purdy and so nice and cheerful… I don’t see how anyone could ever be more popular than you! Here’s to Hilah’s Texas Kitchen and all the wonderful adventures both past, present and future??? I certainly hope so… Peace and Love to you and all that you may touch!
Thank you so much, David! 😀
I’m sure we will do more videos like this series in the future. It was a ton of fun, a definite learning experience, and if I improved people’s perception of Texas just a smidge, too, then I did what I set out to do. Right now we are going to re-focus our energy on making more weekly HilahCooking videos.
Thank you for writing. Peace and love to you, too, friend!
I met KR years ago, he was playing for the brunch diners at the Bob Bullock museum…I asked him if he knew “that song that Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson sang in that John Wayne move” and he played it for us…”My Rifle, My Pony, and Me.”
I came to find out that he also had a bit part in my favorite movie, “The Last Picture Show.”
I like your chili recipe….I started making good chili since I discovered the recipe that comes on packages of Fiesta guajillo peppers. Guajillo peppers are definitely the secret!
Really enjoyed the video, thanks Hilah!
Awesome, Jon! We met KR and his partner Karen completely by chance, actually, one night at Evangeline Cafe. I could tell he was a character the minute I saw him and as soon as I heard “chuck wagon” come out of his mouth, I knew I had found my man.
He’s a terrific guy and man oh man, his chili is THE BEST. It’s seriously a tie for me between his and mine, and I think Chris secretly prefers KR’s chili over mine!
Thanks for writing! Happy you like the video. 😀
In the distance, a coyote bays at the full moon, the smell of the sage wafting in the night….
I can almost hear the sounds of cans of Hunt’s tomato sauce clanging in the rickety old chuck wagon.
“I’m just a mess looking for a place to happen.” Hilarious!
Boy, this episode brought back a lot of memories. When our sons first were in Boy Scouts, they used handmade chuck wagon boxes for campouts. I always thought something was lost when they switched to big plastic bins, although the bins were easier to carry. The Scouts used those old iron Dutch ovens like KR’s, with a lip around the lid; hard to find those in stores.
Loved both KR’s recipe and yours. Definitely will try one or the other when I make chili for a tailgate. Probably yours, since I cook on a camp stove. Hard Times Café by us claims that Frito pie originally was served in brown paper bags. Is that true?
This is your Amigo K.R. Wood a.k.a. Camp Cookie checking in with you and Chris. Karen and I had a great time working with you and Chris on the Chuck Wagon Chili episode.
You both are a true Texas Treasures! We look forward to having more fun down the trail with the Hilah Cooking show. A word from the herd from Ol Cookie is “Keep your Skillet Greasy and Keep your Sunny side up !
I’m so glad y’all like the episode! Let’s meet up for some cajun food soon.
H and C
Sound like a really good chili recipe Hilah. I know it is sacrilege in much of Texas but to chili just isn’t chili without red beans so hopefully you won’t mind too much if I contaminate the recipe with beans. One of the best comfort foods out there. Now if I can only find some of those guajillo peppers around here I will all set. I have never used them and am keen to give them a try.
Haha! Of course! Feel free to add whatever you like! It’s your chili. 😉
If you can’t find guajillo chiles, you can also use dried New Mexico chiles, they are very similar and depending on your location, may be easier to find.
Hope you enjoy!
Is there anyway to get Cookie’s chili recipe?
In the video, KR adds cocoa and masa but your recipe does not mention it. What are the quantities for each? He also adds a bit of water which is also not mentioned in your recipe. Didn’t look like much so I would estimate 1/4-1/2 cup.
This chili recipe is my dad’s. I’d estimate that KR’s recipe uses about a half cup of masa to that big batch of chili (5 pounds of meat) and 1/4 cup cocoa. The water was more like a cup.