When I was a little kid, my dad and I used to have friday night daddy-daughter bowling dates at our local Don Carter’s bowling alley. We used to laugh, bowl, and, best of all, eat chili cheese fries. I have fond memories of crispy deep fried french fries buried underneath gooey liquid cheese and (most likely) canned chili. I loved it. I really did. You see, growing up and becoming electively conscious of the food choices I make and, more importantly, where my food comes from is a double-edged sword. I can’t eat that that stuff anymore. But…I can make all of the naughty treats I loved as a kid in a more healthful way.
You can do this, too. Trust me. To mimic our chili cheese fries, you need to make chili. Whether you go full on cow or totally vegetarian, the secret is lots of spices and slow cooking for a very long time.
For the chili:
I like to use grass-fed organic ground beef. I prefer a 90-10 fat to meat ratio. I brown It in a Dutch oven, drain it, and set it aside. I then put a small amount of canola oil in the skillet and brown one cup diced onion one cup diced bell pepper over medium-high heat. (If you’re like me and like it spicy, add some fresh or pickled jalapeños, too.) When the veggies are nice and brown, but not mushy, add four large cloves of minced garlic. Cook for about a minute and then add the meat back to the pan. Add two tablespoons of chili powder, one tablespoon of cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper to taste, and mix well. Then add two 14 ounce cans of your favorite organic diced tomatoes with all the liquid. Add two tablespoons of tomato paste and mix again. Bring to a simmer. You should have enough liquid to cover about half of the ingredients. If you don’t, add a bit of water. Let this cook in a your covered dutch oven or other heavy lidded cooking vessel for about a half hour at a low simmer. Then add one can of black beans and a small package of frozen sweet corn. Continue to simmer for at least another hour. Taste and adjust the spice and salt levels to taste.
For the fries:
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Cut your favorite potatoes into thick planks and soak them in cold water to draw out some of the starch and prevent from browning. Next, dry them on a clean kitchen towel. Toss them with a bit of canola oil and a pinch of salt. Put on a non-stick cookie sheet and bake on the center rack for about 20 minutes (or until brown on the edges). Remove from the oven and toss again with your favorite spices. I like to use garlic powder, salt, and pepper, but get creative if you want! Potatoes are a great blank canvas. (Feel free to ask me for suggestions!) Once you’ve seasoned your fries, put them back in your 425 oven until the fries are crispy and brown.
Now for the best part:
Put a heaping pile of fries on a plate, top with a massive helping of your healthful and protein-laden chili, and shred some of your favorite cheese over the top. I love sharp Vermont cheddar, but you could use pepper jack, Colby, or whatever you prefer. Pop in the microwave just long enough to melt the cheese, grab a fork, and dive in. You will be so very happy you did.