Frito Pie

I think it is safe to say that with five sons, one loving husband, two useless male hound dogs and a male goldfish I inhabit a man’s world.  I am outnumbered 9 to 2.  That the cat is also ‘non-male’ is immaterial.  She can run and hide under beds or our vast piles of laundry.  Me?  Not so much.


Don’t misunderstand me, please:  I’m not complaining.  I like being the one who makes everything a little more exciting.  The Queen Bee, the salt pork in the can of pork and beans *Even a can of beans is nothing without the salt pork, right? , the chocolate wrapped in croissant- that’s me.  I dig it. 


Digging it does not preclude me living a life thoroughly confused by their manly-male antics.  Growing up in a family where sisters had a 4 to 2 lead over the brothers the girls ruled the roost.  We pestered the boys into submission, dressed an unnamed brother in our nightgowns, ‘did his hair’, painted little stubby boy finger nails, mercilessly teased the poor boys about how they loved Belinda Carlisle’s ‘Circle in the Sand’, and other humiliating things like that.  I missed out on a stellar opportunity to prepare myself for my adult life.  I should’ve figured out what made my brothers tick.


Over the last almost eleven years I have had ample opportunity to make up for my juvenile slights to my brothers.  I have learned some of the ways of man and pre-man (that’d be boy…)  Please allow me to share some of my observations with you.


  • Sports are more important than anything else.  Period.
  • Girls are okay as long as they like Star Wars, Avatar and/or Bionicles.  Any girl who likes all three is worthy of marriage.
  • Hannah Montana is pure evil.
  • Watching and photographing the entire, horrific, two-hour long process of a snake swallowing a frog in the side-yard is more than ample justification for skipping an extended family picnic.
  • The answer to the question, “How long does it take 6 males to eat a full ‘family-sized’ bag of chips?” is “2.4 minutes”.  Also acceptable is the answer, “Five seconds less than it takes the mother to excuse herself to wash her hands before eating.”
  • Food should be plentiful and constantly available or starvation of a very dramatic and vocal sort will occur almost instantly.
  • Football rocks.
  • Baseball rocks.
  • Hockey rocks.
  • Golf rocks.
  • Tennis rocks.
  • Bowling rocks.
  • Gymnastics rock.
  • Televised sports rock.
  • Johnny Damon= Benedict Arnold
  • Food.  More.  Now.


I feel some guilt for the treatment of my little brothers.  I feel guilty enough to have been convinced to play Fantasy Football this year with my little brother Luke and his buddies who’ve been paying attention to NFL statistics and trends since they were 12.  Luke is now 27.  They have a few years on me.  I have no idea what I’m doing.  I’m trying really hard and so far I’m not in last place.  Whether this is through undiscovered skill or pure beginner’s luck remains to be seen.  All I know is that I’ve risen in the esteem of my sons and I’ve impressed my husband since I wondered aloud how many receptions Frank Gore had in a game last week.


Speaking of football and fantasies, last Sunday was close to the best sports fanatic’s day ever for my husband.  The U.S. won the Ryder Cup -“It’s like the Super Bowl of golf, but only once every two years, honey.  You can see why I have to watch the whole thing, right?” , the Cowboys won an exciting game and the Red Sox took a step closer to closing out the Yankees for the wildcard slot in the AL East.  The only way it could’ve been better is if my husband was sharing his Sunday sports grub in our living room with Tiger Woods, Papi Ortiz and Troy Aikman.  Oh yes, life was good last Sunday.


I, of course, played a major part in last week’s sports fantasy fulfillment.  I made the food.  What did you THINK I would say?  One super important component of a successful sports Sunday around here or Monday night depending on whether the Cowboys, Bills and/or Jaguars are playingis the spread of food.  Food that can be eaten in the living room is a must.  Anything on a stick is great.  Anything with a dip is even better.  Some of my XYs favorite game-day munchies are:


  • Frito Pie
  • Snails (pretzel wrapped little smoked sausages)
  • Bones (chicken wings)
  • Supreme Nachos
  • Homemade Pizza
  • Bread:  Fully loaded!
  • Chili with cornbread


The Frito Pie recipe, as I make it, is based on the one my Mom brought back from a brief sojourn in New Mexico, but with much, much more meat including an indecent amount of bacon.  Of course, the bacon and beef can be omitted for a vegetarian version of this.  It’ll be great, but I lurve the bacon.  Truly.  Madly.  Deeply. 


And score another point for meals that please the whole family.  I whip together the refried beans,  taco meat and bacon and put that in a casserole dish, line up the other toppings in bowls on the countertop and let everyone top their own plate.  Then there are no, “But Mooooooom!  I hate tomatoes!” greeting me.  One word of warning:  When once you’ve made Frito pie you must be prepared to make it again.  Frequently.


You can make the beans and meat a day or so ahead of time.  It’ll save you time on game day!


Foodie Frito Pie


Serving the toppings in separate bowls has another advantage:  Not only does it store better, but you can reheat the beans and meat without having to wilt your lettuce, mush-up your tomatoes and cook your green onions. 


If you would prefer, you can use canned refried beans in place of the homemade ones here.  Just substitute 3 cans refried beans.


Ingredients for the refried beans:

  • 1 1/2 lbs dried pinto beans, rinsed and picked over.
  • Several cups of boiling water
  • 1 whole onion, peeled, but otherwise intact
  • 2 whole cloves garlic, peeled, but otherwise intact
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 2 Tablespoons chili powder, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 Tablespoon paprika, divided
  • 2 teaspoons plus 2 teaspoons cumin, divided
  • 4 Tablespoons bacon fat and drippings
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb of uncooked bacon, sliced into thin strips




Put rinsed and picked over pinto beans into a large slow-cooker.  Add enough boiling water to cover by at least 2 inches.  Pop the whole, peeled onion and garlic cloves in, cover and cook on high for three hours.  Keep an eye on the crockpot.  If it looks like the water is getting low, add a little bit more boiling water just to cover the beans. After three hours, check the beans by removing a couple from the pot with a spoon and blowing gently on them.  If the skins curl, you’re ready to proceed.  If the skins don’t curl away from the beans, cook them an hour longer and check again.


Add 2 Tablespoons of chili powder, 1 Tablespoon of paprika, 2 teaspoons of cumin, and salt and pepper to taste to the beans, cover again, lower heat and cook for one more hour.


When the hour is up, remove onions and garlic and discard.  Do not discard liquid from the beans.  That stuff is like gold!


In a large, heavy bottomed skillet  –I use my biggest, baddest, meanest cast iron skillet for the job- over medium high heat, add the bacon strips and cook until they reach the desired crispness.  Use a slotted spoon to remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.  Remove all but 4 Tablespoons of bacon drippings from the pan.  If you don’t have sufficient bacon drippings add olive oil until you have about 4 Tablespoons of fat in the bottom of your pan.  Using that slotted spoon again, scoop your now cooked beans into the skillet.  Turn your heat to medium, add minced garlic, remaining chili powder, paprika and cumin, salt and pepper to taste and mash with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon, adding liquid from the bean pot (this is called bean liquor) until you reach your desired consistency.  When the beans are as thick or thin, as smooth or lumpy as you’d like them, transfer to a clean casserole dish or heat-proof bowl.  Cover with a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap and move on to preparing the meat.


Ingredients for the taco meat:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons stone ground corn meal
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
  • salt and pepper, to taste



In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high heat, break up the ground beef until it is browned.  If there is excess fat, drain the beef and return to the skillet.  Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to allow the meat to simmer until the sauce is thickened and most of the water is evaporated.  Scoop the meat over the refried beans in the casserole dish.  Top the whole thing with the crispy bacon and stick a few spoons around the perimeter of the dish.  Serve with plentiful corn chips and a variety of toppings.  Our usual toppings include:


  • Chopped tomatoes (when they’re out of season we fall back on jarred salsa picante)
  • Sliced green onions or chopped sweet onions
  • Shredded cheddar, asadero or Monterey Jack cheese.
  • Sliced avocados
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Sour cream or plain yogurt
  • Hot sauce
  • Black olives
  • Salsa Verde
  • Chopped fresh cilantro


  1. says

    I am so glad Steve is not a sports guy, at least not like that. I mean, we get into the Lakers come basketball season, but he has never prioritized it over other things. He has his other obsessions though.

    Toppings on the side, good idea. Gawd, he is going to love the hell out of me if I make him Frito pie. He’s a Texas boy and this is pretty popular ’round those parts. I’ve never considered making it from scratch. He always just got a can of chili, dumped it in a bowl and mixed Fritos in it. He is seriously going to go nuts for this. If I make it. I don’t want to be roped into making it a regular thing. 😉


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