Recipe: deconstructed chili cheese fries
We are almost ready to blow this popsicle stand. Kaweah is off to Camp Crazy and we shall be heading west. In the meantime, my cron jobs should be in working order (i.e. there will be posts in my absence) while I’m out of communication.
Jeremy and I recently sampled an order of chili cheese fries at a local joint in Boulder. We were… underwhelmed. It says less about the place serving the fries and more about the culture here. Why is it so hard to find GOOD chili cheese fries? I wasn’t turned on to chili cheese fries until I went to college in Southern California and it became the goto 2 am calorie (and sodium, and fat) replenisher on those late nights working on AMa 95 homeworks (Techers, YOU know what I’m talking about). My ideal chili cheese fries involve crispy, hot fries (not soggy!), shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and a meaty (no beans), well-spiced chili that needs to be ladled on top. These days we indulge maybe a couple times a year when I make my own chili at home, but forget about ordering it in town. No one does it right.
Which got me thinking. Perhaps I could “challenge” a restaurant to make chili cheese fries? My first candidate was The Kitchen, because I think their fries are the best I’ve ever had and I am convinced they could make one mean bowl of chili (they specialize in ass-kicking food). Friday night, that notion gave way to another inspiration… how about I attempt deconstructed chili cheese fries? Just for shits and giggles, you know. Putting a sophisticated spin on a low brow college favorite.
I combined the typical spices that go into my chili recipe and mixed them with a hefty amount of salt and pepper. After picking up a 3-inch thick slice of beef tenderloin, I packed the spices onto the steak and let it sit for 30 minutes to contemplate its delicious fate.
spices that usually go in my chili
rub it all over the filet mignon
While the beef was getting all sassy, I began to prep the cheese. Shredding about a quarter cup of organic white cheddar, I sprinkled them into 4-inch circles on my silpat. Actually, I first attempted these on foil and I won’t be doing that again (they don’t really want to come off the foil). If you plan to make tuiles, use a silpat. After about seven minutes, the cheese began to turn golden at the edges. I took them out of the oven and set them on molds to form shallow baskets. The tuiles become brittle when they cool, so you need to work quickly.
a little white cheddar to make tuiles
forming the hot tuiles on molds
Chili isn’t chili without onions… or jalapenos for that matter. I thinly sliced an onion and chucked a few strips of jalapeno in. I like heat in my chili more than Jeremy does, so I kept it on the mild side, but it definitely could have used twice as much jalapeno and still have been acceptable. I caramelized the onions and pepper in a little olive oil.
onions and a few slivers of jalapeno pepper
caramelized onions and jalapeno pepper
I had one potato in hand and figured I would slice it thin and fry it up, but I could have been convinced to grate them and pan fry them like little hashed browns too. They look like potato chips, but they are thicker so that the insides are soft and the outsides are crispy. That juxtaposition of soft and crispy is very important to me (I love it).
fried potato thins (thicker than crisps or chips)
Jeremy grilled the steak for 15 minutes to an internal temperature of 125°F as we like our steaks to moo (read: rare). Once off the grill, I tented it under foil for another 5 minutes and then began slicing. The spices smelled heavenly – like chili!
slicing the steak
All of the components on the plate are what you’d find in my typical rendition of chili cheese fries. I wanted to add a shot glass of chocolate stout (which I put in my chili), but because Colorado has stupid and antiquated laws and does not sell proper beer or any booze in grocery stores, I punted it. That’s right, I don’t have the patience to go to yet another store.
Jeremy was lukewarm to the idea when I mentioned it Saturday morning. But by the time I was slicing the steak, he was hovering around the table waiting for me to shoot the plate. When we sat down for the moment of truth, we were both surprised at how flipping awesome it was. These were the familiar tastes of chili cheese fries, but delivered with completely different textures. It was delightful. We loved it. Jeremy kept talking about it the day after, so you know it was good.
plated for your amusement
actually, this was bleeping delicious
Deconstructed Chili Cheese Fries
1 1/2 tsps cumin
1 tsp mild red chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
8 oz. filet mignon
1-2 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
2 small tomatoes, washed
1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
1 jalapeno pepper, cored, deseeded, sliced thin (use less if you prefer less spice)
2 tbsps olive oil
salt to taste
1 large yukon gold potato, peeled or scrubbed clean, sliced to 1/8-inch thickness
vegetable oil for frying
salt to season the potatoes
Mix the cumin, chili powder, cayenne (if using), salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Coat the steak with the spices and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature. Heat the oven to 375°F. Place a silpat sheet on a baking sheet and spread the cheese into 4-inch circles about 2 inches apart (makes 2-3) on the silpat. Set the tomatoes in a little baking dish and put them in the oven with the tuiles. Bake the tuiles until they are golden at the edges (about 5-7 minutes), and then remove them from the oven. Working quickly, use a flat, thin spatula to remove the tuiles from the silpat and set them on an inverted bowl or mold and gently press them into a shallow bowl form without breaking them. Let cool. Let the tomatoes bake until they begin to burst and the skin wrinkles. Remove from oven and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on high heat and sauté the onions and jalapeno strips until soft. Season with some salt and continue to sauté until the onions begin to caramelize. Remove from heat. Begin grilling the steak to your preferred doneness (for rare: 125°F internal temperature – this took 15 minutes for a 3-inch thick steak on our crappy grill). Heat an inch or two of vegetable oil to 350°F and fry the potato slices (a few at a time) for a minute or so until they just begin to turn golden. Remove them from the oil with tongs or chopsticks. When the steak is done, tent it with foil for 5 minutes to allow it to rest. Just before serving, I like to finish frying the potatoes a second time – 350°F until the edges turn golden. Remove to a cooling rack and then toss with salt. Cut the steak into thin slices. Arrange the onions, tuile, tomato, potatoes, and steak as you like and serve. Serves 2.