This week I’m taking my dinners on the couch. “Taking my dinners” makes it sound like someone is bringing me dinner. I should say, this week I’m piling quinoa and leftovers into a bowl and plopping down on the couch for a fright.
It’s October. It’s spooky season. It’s me sitting on the couch trying to steel myself through The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix. I have a tender heart but I love to see if it can handle a scare. I’ll tell you, the amount of times I have to pause a scary show makes me a truly unbearable television partner.
This time of year makes everything a scare: dolls, children, old houses, swinging light fixtures, muddy foot prints, humming. No one should be humming in the dark – that’s just terrifying.
There are a few things that can get me through a self-imposed frightnight: biting all my fingernails, or lightly stress-eating something delicious… which brings us to today’s invitation: an inverted chili cheese fry dish topped with cream, jalapeños and cheddar.
Let’s pile our bowls high and eat this in between covering our eyes with both hands. We’re fine. We like this.
We’re making a simple , no-fuss, chili and a pan of oven french fries. Here’s what you’ll need:
• ground beef though you’re welcome to use any ground meat you enjoy or a Beyond Meat veggie option.
• onions and garlic, both chopped well.
• salt, pepper, and spices by the palmful: chili powder, cumin, paprika, and oregano.
• tomato sauce and pureed tomatoes.
• kidney beans.
• water or broth.
• a bag of frozen crinkle cut french fries.
• grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced pickled jalapeños, and chopped chives as you wish.
This is a really straight-forward chili. It’s simple and comforting and comes together in layers.
Start by browning ground beef (or whatever meat or not-meat you’re using). Drain off what seems like too much fat if it exists.
Add the onions and garlic and cook to soften the vegetables to translucent.
Add the spices and stir until fragrant. You’ll feel it in your down in your belly. It’s getting good.
Stir in the water or broth, tomato sauce, and tomato puree and allow to simmer until the flavors come together and the chili thickens just slightly – 30 minutes or so.
While the chili simmers, let’s bake the ol’ fries.
Place a bag of frozen fries onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake until juuuust about done. Slightly underdone is just fine here.
Grate the cheese. Gather thy toppings. Prepare your heart.
After the chili has had a good simmer, add the beans. I like to add the beans towards the end of stovetop cooking so they don’t break down too much in the simmer.
Place all but about a cup and a half of the chili into a 9×9-inch square pan. (I save that reserved cup and a half of chili and stash it in the freezer for a future solo dinner and it’s always a good idea.)
Top the chili with baked fries.
Cover the baked fries with a few good sprinkles of cheddar cheese and place the pan under the broiler to crisp the top fries and melt the cheese.
This will give you just enough time to gather your serving bowl, maybe pour a beer, and queue up a little scare. Enjoy this hearty comfort my friends!
Photos with Jon Melendez. Recipe adapted from Rachael Rey.Print
Homemade Chili Cheese Fry Bake
A simple and comforting meat and bean chili served with toasty fried and melted cheddar.
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 37
- Total Time: 57 minutes
- Yield: Serves 4-6 1x
- Category: dinner
For the Chili:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1 large yellow onions, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 1/2 cups water or chicken broth
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 2 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans
For the Fry Bake and Topping:
- 1 bag frozen crinkle cut fries
- Seasoning salt
- Grated cheddar cheese
- Sour cream
- Chopped chives or scallions
- In a large dutch oven, medium-heat the oil over high heat. Add the beef and break apart with a wooden spoon until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
- Place a lid on the pot and drain off all but about 2 tablespoons of fat. If the dutch oven is too heavy to lift with a lid, transfer the meat to a bowl, pour off the fat from the pan, and return the meat to the pan.
- Add the onions and stir over medium-low heat until soft, 6-8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add all of the spices and stir to combine.
- Stir in water or broth and scrape the bottom of the pan, bringing up any browned bits. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally over low heat for 30 minutes.
- While the chili cooks, bake fries according to the package directions. Remove fries from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F. To finish the chili, stir in the beans and cook for 7 minutes or so.
- When ready to serve, spoon chili into a 9×9-inch square pan. Reserve about 1 1/2 cups of chili in a freezer safe container and store in the freezer for another meal. Spoon so that the chili fills the pan, leaving about 1-inch of room at the top. Top with warm baked fries. Sprinkle with season salt and cheddar cheese.
- Place in the oven to broil until the cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with chives or scallions. Spoon into bowls to serve and enjoy with sour cream and pickled jalapeños.
You can easily adjust this recipe to be vegetarian by adding something like Beyond Meat instead of the ground beef or simply adding extra extra beans and cubed potatoes to the dish.