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and i am outta here

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
[print recipe]

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.

54 nibbles at “and i am outta here”

  1. Shoshanna says:

    My stomach just growled…Yum! :o)

  2. Rosa says:

    That deconstructed dish is amazing! A great creation!



  3. Maja says:

    Can i come visit you three? :) Will do dishes for food. :)

  4. Astrid says:

    The sign of a true chef-artist. You made something exquisite out of ordinary food. So beautiful and tasty-looking!

  5. Pegs says:

    Whoa…nothing like a good gourmet spin on meat and potatoes. Yum.

  6. Liz Ross Brooks says:

    Wow this is beautiful, thank you for sharing!

  7. charlane says:

    looks delish – even for breakfast time here.

  8. Ciaochowlinda says:

    That meat looks perfectly cooked and your tuiles are beautiful. I have used a castiron skillet to make parmesan fricos (similar idea) and had success.

  9. Home with Mandy says:

    I love the white cheddar tuiles! Great post. I also gave you an award on my blog this morning, check it out.

  10. Lisbeth says:’!

  11. Mrs Ergül says:

    I can count on only you for interesting ideas like this! Keep ’em coming!! Enjoy your trip out West! xxoo

  12. Manggy says:

    Have a great trip Jennifuh! And may the memory of that lovely scent and mindblowing taste tide you over till you’re back in the kitchen again :) (well, do tell us about the food you eat on your trip of course :)

  13. Whitney says:

    You are so creative. Amazing!

  14. Fiona says:

    Sooo….did you get your 2am fix at Top’s? or…what’s that other place? I can’t remember, but the pastrami joints in Pasadena are wonderful. Of course, I doubt they make many white cheddar tuiles.

  15. Phoo-D says:

    This is gorgeous! I love the plating. It makes me want to dive right into the screen.

  16. dawn says:

    wow, deconstructed is right, but oh so better.
    the steak is perfectly cooked by the way…

  17. Chocolate and Toast says:

    Totally freaking unbelievable! Yummy and beautiful at the same time, I love it.

  18. Lisa says:

    It’s breakfast time for me – and this STILL looks delish-us! Made me think about picking up some filet for dinner tonight…mmmm.

    Would love to meet up if you in fact had the time (on your “trip west”) but absolutely no worries if not! Family is always my own priority… as much time as possible with them.

    Travel Safe!!

  19. Asianmommy says:

    What a beautiful dish!

  20. Manisha says:

    This is deconstructing? I don’t think so. I think this is creating awesome food!

  21. Sarah says:

    I can’t deal with how good this sounds. Can. Not. Deal.

  22. The Flying Quiche says:

    I am so impressed with this! Delish junk food plated and presented in a fancy way. Genius I tell you.

  23. Su-Lin says:

    OMG, that steak. I need it.

  24. Candice says:

    if i made this meal for my boyfriend, he’d marry me. if i made it for my twin, i’d have a slave for life. oh, the possibilities!

  25. Tony says:

    that steak looks awesome!! the entire dish is cleverly cute – delicious!

  26. Nicole says:

    Here in Rochester, NY we have a pretty good selection of colleges, which leads to quite a few good “all-nite joints” so I am familiar with getting really good chili cheese fries and really not good ones. Next time you make them up old fashioned try sprinkling some malt vinegar on the fries before the cheese goes on. It does make them a touch soggy, but its sooooo worth it!

  27. Tartelette says:

    Candice’s comment cracked me up!! I’d better make some and deliver a plate to Warren Buffer, ahahaha :)
    If somebody was going to do this right, it was you, that’s fore sure!

  28. Christine says:

    Awesome. By the way, Colorado’s liquor laws are why there are no Trader Joe’s in that state!

  29. cindy says:

    awesome plating. i love a crispy/soft frie…i’m amazed.

  30. Jess says:

    Oh wow.

  31. sophie says:

    I read your blog, but haven’t ever commented. And I’m thinking you need to be on the Next Food Network Star! You’re so creative and talented, you could totally win.

  32. Jamie says:

    I read the entire thing… something I don’t always do (but that’s the price you pay when you have such captivating and telling photos)…but you had me at “chili cheese fries.” And honestly Jen, the pictures and idea is amazing…you are a top chef. Its truly an inspired gourmet spin on a deliciously humble food. Yet, I am still disappointed. Seriously disappointed. I really wanted to see that version of the chili cheese fries you’d go fetch at the 2am study session. I wanted to know how you’d doctor THAT up. Real homemade crunchy, yet soft and potato-y French fries smothered with all the fixins’- Jen style– real meat chili, caramelized onions, charred tomatoes, homemade cheese sauce, whatever, etc.

    Nevertheless, I might try that chili rub on my steak next time…

  33. Karen B says:

    That looks awesome! I really have to get over my fear of cooking red meat. I’ll cook any kind of seafood without batting an eye, but for some reason, I steak paralyzes me. I think I’m afraid it will turn out tough and I’ll be disappointed. Your steak is gorgeous, I want one! And the rest of the meal too!

  34. Caitlin says:

    Whoa. I’m thinking I’d like the hash brown idea better, but seriously. That’s one classy 2am calorie bomb. Enjoy your trip!

  35. Wendy says:

    Cheese tuiles! Nice idea, and the beef looks really.good.

  36. Esther says:

    That looks and sounds wonderful. It looks so posh but sounds like it would taste fantastic which posh looking food doesn’t always.

  37. thekitchenwitch says:

    I love the creativity here! I never would have thought to deconstruct chili cheese fries–awesome!

  38. Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy says:

    What a perfect meal! Every component looks fantastic. Your deconstructed fries are brilliant! Have a safe and fun trip. I’ll be out West this weekend too. Going to Seattle for the IFBC. Holler if you’re going to be in the same area. : )

  39. Dani says:

    Oh my gosh this looks so yummy…I have to try this out!…

    Please take a look at my FB group recipesby:dani….please feel free to post and join in ….

  40. Margie says:

    I’ve got a very happy family on my hands when I make these babies!

    Enjoy your trip; have a safe and joyous journey.

  41. Mollie says:

    gah… incredible… you’re amazing…

  42. Macie says:

    Wow, how creative! Who’da thunk, classed up chili cheese fries? Another great job :)

  43. Megan says:

    *shudder* 95… *shudder*

    we used to go on 4am Tommy’s runs to get the chili cheese fries to survive the rest of the night….

    and yes, that is why I weighed 15 pounds more in college :-P

  44. Melissa says:

    I bet it was bleeping delicious! This is so fascinating to me, that you actually deconstructed the chili fries. You are sumthin else, Jen.

    “While the beef was getting all sassy”

    I’ll have to use that hehe.

  45. Ruth says:

    You are just incredible!!! and I am trying to stay on the vegetarian side, but, my G-D, you can persuade me with this one, absolutely splendid presentation!!!

  46. Mike says:


    Girl…you need to open a restaurant! I’ll do the wine list…

  47. Chez US says:

    Jen, you are brilliant! I love deconstructed meals and this one is ……. brilliant!

    Have a wonderful holiday!

  48. Y says:

    The slicing of the steak.. Holy delicious cow, that steak looks like the most mouth watering thing ever!

  49. jenyu says:

    Shoshanna – :)

    Rosa – thanks.

    Maja – ha ha, I don’t typically let others do my dishes :)

    Astrid – oh, you’re too sweet. Thanks.

    Pegs – absolutely agree with you there.

    Liz – thanks for dropping by!

    Charlane – oh, this is the perfect thing for breakfast to me!

    Ciaochowlinda – ooh, great tip! Thanks for that.

    Home w/ Mandy – well thanks for your sweet award. xxoo

    Lisbeth – ;)

    Mrs. E – ha, you’re so kind!

    Manggy – thanks! We had a decent time – tiring!

    Whitney – thank you :)

    Fiona – Tops, Lucky Boy’s, Tommy’s… just a lot of sick food ;) Sick as in good and bad lingo!

    Phoo-D – hee hee, thanks!

    Dawn – I love my steak rare, so glad others do too!

    Chocolate and Toast – why thank you!

    Lisa – gotchya, babe.

    Asianmommy – thank you.

    Sarah – ha ha! You’ll have to go home and make it asap :)

    The Flying Quiche – I kinda like that notion too – fancy plated trash food!

    Su-Lin – ;)

    Candice – Make it once and serve them at the same time!

    Tony – thank you, hon.

    Nicole – mm, I am crazy for malt vinegar on fries. LOVE it. Never did it with ccfries though. Thanks!

    Tartelette – ha ha ha! Silly girl ;) Well, if it were a sweet dish, it’d be YOU!

    Christine – that’s what I’ve heard, but then Trader Joe’s reps have said that’s not the reason – it’s distribution centers…

    Cindy – thanks!

    Jess – :)

    Sophie – oh! *blush* I would never make a good tv star. I’m too angry ;)

    Jamie – ha ha! That version we’d pick up at 2am looks disturbingly like vomit. ha ha ha. Oh boy… The homemade version isn’t necessarily prettier, but it’s tastier :)

    Karen – I think a good trick to grilling steak is to purchase a $10 thermometer (meat probe, that type). Just grill and when the internal temp reaches the desired temperature, take it off the grill and let it rest under foil for a few minutes. Then eat! :)

    Caitlin – I’m crazy for hashed browns. Love the crunchy (sfc area crunchy is greater on hashed browns).

    Wendy – thank you.

    Esther – oh thanks!

    Thekitchenwitch – I never had either :) Just came to me (boredom, me thinks?)

    Susan – oh bummer :( Would have loved to catch up with you in Seattle, but we were in Yosemite. Hope you had fun, sweetie!

    Dani – thanks, I’m not on FB.

    Margie – awesome! I hope you make it for them :)

    Mollie – pshaw!

    Macie – it’s fun to mess with trashy food like that ;)

    Megan – ha ha ha! Ugh, 95 suuuuucked. But vball made up for it, right?

    Melissa – you’re so funny. I hope you make some sassy food soon!

    Ruth – oops! Shall I tell you the beef really wasn’t that great? ;)

    Mike – deal!

    Chez Us – thanks!

    Y – ha ha – “holy delicious cow”? My deconstructions can only come within feet of your lovely deconstructions! You inspire me! :)

  50. Dani says:

    Made this last night for my boyfriends birthday…should have taken a pic….all loved it…made it for 4 and plated it as well for fun….my picky eater boy at it all even the onion mixture….it was YUmmy! And i usually do not eat what I make…odd yes but true…..Cant wait to try some more of your recipes…./d

  51. jenyu says:

    Dani – great job on the tart! It will convert even the pickiest of eaters, I think :)

  52. icarus says:

    omfg. omg. wth. ohn. looks beautiful and because i have to know how it tastes i am making them. the pictures are making my mouth water.

  53. jenyu says:

    Icarus – Yeah! Have fun with it :)

  54. Tami says:

    What a brilliant and creative idea! Chili cheese fries (done well that is) are a favorite of mine too :) I’m so looking forward to trying this! Thanks Jen!!!

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