VEGETARIAN CHILI CHEESE FRIES

While cooking, listen to this: Lovely Day - Bill Withers

During my senior year of college, I noticed that I was peeing all of the time. Like, all of the time - upwards of 20 times a day. I couldn't sleep through the night without getting up to pee, and having to go up and down a lofted bed made it a whole ordeal. I drink a lot of water so I thought that was why, but something seemed amiss. I went to the doctor to get a check-up for my summer job and mentioned my issue. He sent me to a urologist, who sent me to get an ultrasound. It came back abnormal, so off to outpatient surgery I went.

To make a very long story short, it turned out there were cysts in my bladder. And they weren't even paying rent to live in there! The doctors had never seen anything like it before, which made me very special, but also made me very scared. When I woke up from the anesthesia I was crying because of how freaked out I was. I couldn't really see, so I can't picture this part very well, but one of the nurses gave me a bag of cheez-its to eat post-surgery, either because I asked for them or she intuited it because nurses are SAINTS, but then I started crying more because my mouth was so dry that I couldn't eat the cheez-its. It was a rough day.

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I was sent home to recover, but due to complications I needed to go into emergency surgery the next day. I wasn't allowed to eat anything until then, so I had basically eaten nothing but a few sad cheez-its in two days. That, coupled with the complications, turned me into a bit of a monster.

My mom and I got to the hospital for the surgery and were told we had to wait three hours before getting started. I don't think I've ever grumbled so much in my life, and bless my mama for being so patient with the fuming, hungry, bleeding mess that was me. I was eventually taken to my room and given my IV with a nice dose of Ativan added in, and woke from the surgery totally fixed. As I awoke, I told my mom that I was just so hungry and tired. My mom told me she would make me anything I wanted, anything at all.

To this day I have no idea why I requested this, but I told her to please make me vegetarian chili cheese crinkle fries.

AND SHE DID. BECAUSE SHE IS PERFECT.

After being with me, the grumpasaurus, at the hospital for like, six hours, she made me vegetarian chili cheese fries. It was one of the best things I have ever tasted.

Now, with the Super Bowl coming up, it seems time to start making giant, batshit recipes that will feed a crowd. I don't know anything about the Super Bowl, or honestly sports, but I do know about frying things and making copious amounts of food. These fries aren't just great for post-surgery meals, but for yelling at your TV and drinking excessively, too!

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These fries are salty, cheesy and extremely satisfying. The chili can be made a few days in advance, giving you more time to fry all those potatoes and tap all those kegs. We're nothing if not practical.

Love and meows, Rina

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VEGETARIAN CHILI CHEESE FRIES

Yield: 8-10 servings (or less, depending on the day you've had)

Active Cook Time: 30m | Total Cook Time: 1h 30m

Category: Main, Snacks, Comfort Food

Source: chili from Rina's mama, fry method from Serious Eats

Special Equipment: gloves for chopping jalapeno (optional)


Ingredients

chili:

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno with seeds and membrane OR 2 jalapenos, de-seeded, minced

2 Tablespoons cumin

1 Tablespoon chili powder

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 can/about 2 cups black beans

1 can/about 2 cups kidney beans

2 cups frozen or fresh corn

1 can/about 2 cups tomato sauce

1 can/about 2 cups diced tomatoes

1 bag/about 1 ½ cups meatless crumbles (we use Gardein)

Sriracha, to taste, optional

Few squirts ketchup, optional (DON'T LOOK AT ME)

fries:

4 Russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch-thick fry shapes

2 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar

2 Tablespoons salt, plus more for sprinkling

Vegetable oil, for frying

As much cheese as you damn well please

Instructions

Make the chili: in a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium until shimmery. Add the onion and sautee until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeno and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Add the cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to evenly coat the vegetables. Add the beans, corn, tomatoes, tomato sauce and crumbles and mix evenly. If you're using, add in the sriracha and ketchup now. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for about 1 hour, stirring every once in a while to make sure that the bottom doesn't burn.

Make the fries: add the potatoes to a large, heavy bottomed pot and fill with enough water to cover the potatoes, plus an extra 1-inch. Add in the salt and vinegar, cover and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, uncover and allow to boil for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, drain the potatoes.

A note about the vinegar: you may be thinking, why do I have to boil my potatoes in vinegar? The answer is simple: it makes the fries crispier! Read all of the science behind it here.

Fry 'em up: clean out the pot you used to boil the fries and add enough vegetable oil so that the fries will be totally submerged. This is also a good time to set up your frying station, a cooling rack with paper towels laid underneath. Heat the oil on high - test the oil by dropping a piece of potato in (there will inevitably be at least one broken fry, so sacrifice that one). If it starts to bubble furiously, your oil is ready to go. Fry the potatoes in batches until they're a light golden brown, then turn out onto the cooling racks and immediately sprinkle with salt. Repeat until done.

Assemble! On a large plate, tray or your kitchen table place a single layer of fries. Top with some cheese, then add the finished chili and top with more cheese. Pop in a 350 F oven for a few minutes if the cheese needs to melt some more. Dig in!

To keep: this is very much a eat-in-the-moment recipe. The fries need to be made the day of, but the chili can be made a few days in advance and makes amazing leftovers.