It probably sounds strange to have chili fries for dinner, but thatâ€™s only because restaurant culture says that chili fries are an appetizer or side dish. But really, a hearty chili paired with a side of fries is a satisfying meal in itself.
This is more of a how-to, because the components of this meal are pretty straightforward. I just had never thought of putting them together quite like this. The chili here is my usual go-to chili: Rachael Rayâ€™s Turkey Chipotle Chili with Pepper Jack Cheese Corn Cake Toppers (without the corn cakes). Itâ€™s a relatively fancy chili, not something youâ€™d use to top fries with. I also like that itâ€™s a turkey-based chili â€“ itâ€™s slightly less fatty than beef, so it gives that extra wiggle room on the cheese sauce. The only change I made to the recipe was making the sauce slightly thicker â€“ I used only a cup of the chicken stock. I figured this would work better when combined with the fries and cheese sauce.
Because I made the cheese sauce from scratch, I decided to take a shortcut on the fries, by just using frozen fries from the supermarket. (I also had a couple of half-bags leftover, so this was an excuse to use them up.) If you had the time, though, I think it would be excellent to oven-roast your own potato wedges for this.
And that leaves the cheese sauce. Normally for chili-cheese fries you get an over-processed, Velveeta-style cheese sauce that oozes over the chili like a fatty, yellow lava flow. Instead of that, I decided to make a cheese sauce from scratch, pulling elements from both chili (cumin, chili powder) and fondue (beer). The recipe for the sauce is after the break.
In assembling this, I put some fries on the bottom, drizzled a bit of the cheese sauce on top, then a healthy serving of the chili, and then a bit more cheese sauce on top of that. Eat with a knife and fork. It was awesome.
Beer Cheese Sauce
This is your basic bÃ©chamel cheese sauce, but instead of using all milk, I used mostly beer and chicken stock. This method can be used to create cheese sauces for everything from nachos to lasagna to mac & cheese â€“ just adjust the seasonings as appropriate.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon paprika (preferably smoky, but sweet works too)
1 teaspoon chili powder (I used Penzeysâ€™ Chili 9000)
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup light-colored beer (lagers and IPAs work well)
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
1-2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until bubbling. Sprinkle the flour over top, and whisk until combined and not too lumpy. Let this cook for a minute. Sprinkle in the paprika, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper and whisk to combine.
While whisking, pour in the beer & stock, combining thoroughly until there are no signs of lumps. Bring the mixture up to a simmer. As you do so, the sauce will thicken considerably. Add the milk a bit at a time until you get the consistency you want â€“ aim for something a little more liquidy than youâ€™d like, as the cheese will thicken the sauce more.
Once the sauce is at a simmer, turn off the heat. Add the cheese a handful at a time, whisking thoroughly after each addition until itâ€™s combined with the sauce. Repeat until the sauce is as thick and/or as cheesy as youâ€™d like. Taste, and adjust the seasonings as necessary.