Barrel & Ashes burst on the scene about five months ago, serving up something L.A. desperately needed: damn good Texas BBQ. But beyond the quest for smoked-meat-greatness, chef Timothy Hollingsworth spoon-fed the city something it never knew it needed but is damn grateful it has: his take on the revelatory combination of chili, cheese, and corn chips known as Frito pie.
At Barrel & Ashes, they do it up right by topping it with green onions, sour cream, and Fresno chiles, and serving it right in the kids’-lunch-bag-sized Frito bag from whence the chips came. It’s the same concept as a seared scallop served in its own half shell, except it’s way better because—you know—it’s a bunch of chips smothered in chili.
Overall, it’s a tasty, whimsical, and aesthetically pleasing dish, but it has one major flaw: Fritos are, and always will be, the world’s most mediocre chip.
That’s not to say they’re culturally insignificant. Fritos were invented in San Antonio in 1932 and became an early symbol for the Mexican-inspired, pan-Texan food sensibility, so it only makes sense that they’re in one of Texas’ most iconic dishes. And 83 years ago, I don’t doubt that Fritos were a great snack option. But, as Bob Dylan so accurately predicted, the times they are a changin’, and almost every other chip has left Fritos sitting in their own greasy, salty dust.
For my money, if Barrel & Ashes really wanted to pay homage to the iconic Texan dish while also doing it some innovative justice, they’d get with the times and start rocking Frito-Lay’s badass poster chip: Doritos.
That would open up the possibility for so many snack-chip-pie varieties—there are more than 100 Doritos flavors—and each one could feature a different chili to pair with its respective chip. I decided to jump-start the creative process and mess around with one of my own.
To counter the traditional, tomato-based Texas red chili, I went with a tomatillo-based green chili. The plan was to use Salsa Verde Doritos, but as it turns out, Frito-Lay doesn’t make them in the kids’-lunch-bag-size, which is yet another culinary injustice suffered by America’s youth. I settled with Cool Ranch, Salsa Verde’s super lame but still serviceable cousin.
I braised a pork shoulder overnight in a few tall boys of Tecate and some aromatics, then broke down the meat, simmered a couple tomatillos in the leftover pork liquor, and used a hand blender to marry it all together.
Then I sautéed some diced onion, poblano, and jalapeno in canola oil, added in the tomatillo pork broth, and incorporated the pork shoulder along with a can of hominy—which you should definitely start eating, by the way. The pre-Doritoed pie filling was seasoned with salt, pepper, and some white vinegar, and simmered for a good while.
To get that essential Barrel & Ashes aesthetic, I used a paring knife to carve out a large square in the chip bag, ripped out its crispy insides, stuffed it corner-to-corner with the chili, and then topped it with Cool Ranch Doritos, jack cheese, sour cream, green onions, and pickled Fresno chiles.
The concept isn’t limited to the domestic market either. This trend could (but, like, not really) go global. Don’t be surprised if you see a Bangkok street cart selling Spicy Sweet-Chili Dorito-topped panang curry in the near future.