Saturday, March 31, 2012

Slice of the Week - Frito Pie (and I'm back!)

I'm back!

I mean, I never actually vanished from all of life (that would have been odd), but I did have an extremely busy last couple of weeks in which I had to hunker down at my real job and focus and send emails and all those other things you do on a daily basis that seem really inconsequential but somehow take up ALL of your time and energy. Hey, a girl's gotta pay those bills somehow!

But, life has (sort of) stabilized. Or, at least it's calm enough for me to start writing again. In any case, you probably don't care all that much about my busy life. You want to read about pie. Well, I shall not disappoint (any more)!

Frito Pie

While on my southwestern road trip vacation last month (see some cool pics here), I ended up walking through the lovely town of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Amongst the pueblos, churches, and vendors hawking silver and turquoise, I happened upon the Five and Dime General Store.

Normally, I would have kept on walking. Other than being an awesome song from Reefer Madness,  five and dime's don't necessarily interest me.

But then I looked up and saw this:

Five and Dime General Store, Santa Fe, NM

And then I looked down and saw this:

More Five and Dime sinage

And then I stopped right in the middle of a busy sidewalk, gave a little scream, flailed my arms, caused some general mayhem and confusion amongst the other tourists, and stormed into the store.

For a moment, I thought the sign was just a cruel joke. The inside of this supposedly magical place was nothing more than an unorganized dollar store with terrible fluorescent lighting. There were rows of kitschy souvenirs next to steering wheel covers and mop heads, and things certainly cost more then mere nickles and dimes. Confused and not seeing where to get my pie, I continued to the back of the store where I was greeted with this:

It's like you're at an old movie theater. Without the movies.

Slightly more encouraged, I stepped up to the counter where I discovered they were indeed selling something called a Frito Pie. The sign priced it at almost $5.00. I actually had second thoughts about going forward with my culinary plans - not only did it seem pricy (and I wasn't even too sure what I was ordering - $5 for a slice of pie in the back of a convenience store just seems wrong), I had recently eaten breakfast and wasn't even that hungry.

But it's moments like these that I call to the ultimate inspiration and ask myself, What Would Anthony Bourdain Do? (WWABD, if you're into acronyms).

He'd order the damn pie, Mary! That's what he would do! C'mon....

So I ordered. I was able to watch the bored woman put together the pie (I will not elevate this pie's status by saying it was made. That would be giving it too much credit. It was put together.) and here's what I learned:

Makin' my pie

The Frito Pie begins with a small, snack-sized bag of Fritos. The bag of Fritos is opened. A scoop of chilli, made with ground beef and a few red kidney beans, is spooned on top of the corn chips.  A half an inch of re-fried pinto beans make up Layer #3. Shredded cheddar cheese tops off the concoction. The bag is then put in a special holder that keeps everything upright, but this is only so you can pay for the pie. You don't get to take the special holder with you to the table. A Toppings Bar, comprised of onions and Tabasco sauce, is pointed out. You are handed a plastic fork and a stack of napkins, and told to go find a seat.

Really - where can I get one of these holders?

Needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive. I'm fairly brave when it comes to trying strange food (I willingly ordered sushi wrapped in trout skin just last week), and I realize that one of my first recipes for this blog was a Taco Pie that was loosely based on this very concept, but this just seemed...not glamorous. Where was the smoking campfire? Where were the sweeping southwestern vistas? Where have all the cowboys gone???

Ah well, such is life. So I dug in.

Into the depths of the Frito Pie
It was...not terrible. The chili was caliente Y picante, which made my mouth burn in two different ways. I'm not a fan of Fritos to begin with, but the salty-savory-cheesy combination was surprisingly delightful. If I was a starving frat boy, I would have devoured this in a second.

Luckily, I brought this guy along as my personal photographer

I can see the appeal of this pie, both as a tourist trap ("over 3,000 sold annually!" says the sign) and as a fun treat for kids or cowboys. The clean-up, provided you keep the bag upright, is almost non-existent. And it was overpriced, but there was a good amount of food in the bag, and hey, I'm on vacation.

Frito Pie - Santa Fe, NM

As I was finishing up, I overheard an older gentleman tell his wife, "oo! They're serving up some Walkin' Cowboys!"

So they are.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

This post has nothing to do with pie

I got back late last night from a much needed weekend getaway out west. Southwest, to be more specific. I had the pleasure of taking a mini round-trip road trip from Denver, CO to Albuquerque, NM, and filled my five days with beautiful vistas, rising mountains, kitschy travel lodge signs, and endless and empty roads. After many (many) months of not leaving the overcrowded and often really smelly subways and streets of New York, this was a much needed respite. I was able to find some pie (that'll be discussed and dissected in a later post), but I basically spent the time flipping through magazines, enjoying the unraveling scenery and taking a bajillion photos. Here are some of my favorites :)

Disclaimer: It was unfortunately and uncharacteristically cloudy for the first two days of the road trip, so I took that opportunity to experiment with some fun photo filters. The following pictures were taken with my iPhone and edited with the pretty fantastic PhotoToaster app.

Downtown Denver

Black and white tree outside of Red Rocks


Roadside signs abound

Rural New Mexico

Finding art at the Denver Art Center
Drivin along in my automobile

Things you don't get to see in Manhattan

Looking down at Red Rocks Arena
Church in Santa Fe, NM
Old sinage in Madrid, NM

Technicolor New Mexico

Outside the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History

Such blue skies

More Santa Fe church

Pretty doors
Not sure if/when we actually drove on this road, but I took a picture nonetheless

So pretty

Along the Rio Grande

More pretty
These are the skies I came to see

Looking up - Taos, NM

My favorite lone tree
Lomo-fied road

Endless road.

Sunset time

Mountains help to pass the time

A final view from seat 3A

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Leavin' on a jet plane

Image courtesy of

Hey all,

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I am not escaping forever, but the posts will be a little thin this week - I'm headed out on a little vacay (even pie bloggers need to rest!) and I am not (I repeat, NOT) bringing my computer along. However, be sure to check out my twitter feed (@Pies_Etc) for what I'm sure will be some completely awesome pics of the great southwest and maybe even some tasty pie pics thrown in along the way. And who knows. A friend I'm meeting up with in New Mexico has already started talking about getting me to to eat and/or make and/or discuss some sort of red vs. green chile thing and then put said chiles into a pie...I really don't know. I'm a midwestern girl at heart and current East coast transplant, the whole other half of the country is a giant mystery to me (disclaimer: just now I had to look up the correct spelling of chile. It turns out there's more to this discussion than I thought.)

So for now, may your week be sweetly filled with the sweet fillings of some delicious slices. Take care!

My soon-to-be-view

Friday, March 2, 2012

Pie Run 2012 - Shepard's Pie

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of heading to Philadelphia to collaborate on a blog post with my friend Sean from Phat Man Running. We wrote wrote of our individual experiences on each others' sites (I talked of and showed photos from the 20 minute run we went on, he discussed the caloric breakdown of the pies we made), but I realized that I still had a phone full of pictures just begging to be uploaded. And, since no self-respecting pie blogger would ever let well-lit pictures go unposted, here's the first of the two pies we made. (Note: some of the measurements are a bit general, we didn't have access to many measuring cups so we eyeballed a lot of the cooking process)

(Note #2: I was really excited about having someone else do the cooking because that meant I could take a lot of action shots. Please excuse the slightly excessive amount of photos.)

(Note #3: When we were at the Trader Joe's buying groceries, we almost bought pre-made apple pie and called it a day. But we didn't. That's how much we honored the sanctity of our PieRun Mission.)

Pie Crust
Since Sean was running the kitchen for this portion of the day, we used his pie crust recipe - flour, salt, and butter (instead of shortening) - and made enough for two 9" crusts.


Butter for sauteing 
2 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped carrots
8oz. can of corn
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup vegetable stock
A few splashes of red wine
Mashed potatoes as topping
     5-6 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
     1/2 stick butter
     1/2 cup buttermilk
     Salt/pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese as topping
9" pie crust

How to
Melt butter in large skillet. Add onions and carrots, saute until soft.

Add ground beef, cook until brown.

Stir in the stock and wine.

Add the corn.

It will be soupy; cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.

While the meat is simmering, roll out half of the pie crust and place in the bottom of your pie plate. Excess crust may be consumed.

When the mixture has reduced to your liking, remove from heat and pour into the pie plate.

Spread the mashed potatoes over the meat mixture.

From a homemade piping bag, add decorative potatoes in the shape of a labyrinth. If you so choose.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese

Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes, or until potatoes have browned.

Then thrown yourself a very classy dinner party.