For a person that lives in Northern Wisconsin, I’m not nearly as outdoorsy as I should be. I don’t camp, fish, hike, or hunt. While admitting to these things is a pretty big character flaw in this neck of the woods, the one outdoor activity that I thoroughly enjoy is sitting by a campfire. More specifically, cooking delicious food over a fire.
When I was young, my parents would send me for one week away at camp each summer. While I merely put up with all of the other required activities, I loved the cookouts that we had, and that is where I was introduced to the concept of the pudgy pie. For those of you that don’t know, a pudgy pie is two pieces of bread with yummy fillings inside that is then heated like a grilled cheese using a camp cooker, also known as a double pie iron. The most familiar pudgy pies that I have seen people make are pizza pudgy pies and apple pudgy pies. The first being stuffed with sauce, pepperoni, and mozzarella, and the latter being filled with apple pie filling. I was always a fan of the pizza pudgy pie and thought it couldn’t be topped until I had the opportunity to try a chili cheese dog version. This delicious invention was stuffed with chopped up hot dogs, chili, and of course, cheese.
Since the camp I was attending was trying to feed numerous middle school students, they were opting to use chili out of a can when creating these pies, but as an adult reflecting back, I decided that it was time to amp up the chili cheese dog pudgy pie with some homemade chili. With a little adaptation, I was able to transform my original chili recipe to be somewhat less spicy, and a lot less liquidy. These two changes were enough to create the perfect chili for the inside of my pie. After trying them last weekend, I can say with 100% certainty that while chili cheese dog pudgy pies are good with canned chili, they are incredible with this homemade version.
So, start up your campfires, and let’s get cooking!
1 lb Ground Round
1 can Petite Diced Tomatoes
1 can Kidney Beans
1 can Medium Chili Beans
½ tsp Onion Powder
½ tsp Garlic powder
1 ½ tbsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Salt
½ tsp Sugar
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
½ tsp Hot Sauce
2 slices of Bread per Person
½ Hot Dog per Person (coined and halved)
¼ cup Shredded Cheddar per Person
Butter (for greasing pans and buttering bread)
*Special Tool* – Camp Cooker or Double Pie Iron
Before you can even begin to think about lighting your campfire, you need to make your chili. I like to make this up the night before to ensure that all of the flavors have thoroughly combined before eating it. This chili recipe makes up enough for between 13-15 pudgy pies depending on how much chili people are stuffing in between their bread. So, this is a great party food overall!
The biggest change between this chili recipe and others is that this one involves more straining of ingredients. The goal is to eliminate as much liquid as possible from the chili mixture to remove the chance of the bread getting soggy when the pie is made.
1. The first step to making the chili is to brown the ground round and then strain it. Next, add the petite diced tomatoes directly into the meat that is still in the strainer. Make a chopping motion with a spatula to dice the tomatoes down even finer and to help remove more of the liquid from the dish.
2. After the meat and tomatoes have been combined, dump them into a bowl. Then strain the kidney beans before adding them into the same bowl. The chili beans are going to be the one exception to the staining rule. Do NOT strain them, because the sauce that they are combined with is flavorful, and you will want to retain that flavor in the chili. Add them into the bowl and then move on to the next step.
3. You are going to finish off your chili by mixing in all of the seasonings and spices, and finally, the Worcestershire sauce and the hot sauce. If you are making this chili up the night before, you do not have to worry about cooking everything together. All of the flavors will have enough time to come together by sitting in the fridge overnight. However, if you are making up the chili on the same day that you will be having your pudgy pies I recommend letting it simmer for at least 15 minutes.
Kitchen Tip 1: When the chili is done, you can enjoy the activity of starting a campfire and letting it burn down a little bit before making the pudgy pies. If you did make the chili the night before, you should take it out of the refrigerator at least an hour before your meal so that the filling won’t be ice cold before putting it over the campfire. This will allow the pie to cook more evenly.
Kitchen Tip 2: It is a good idea to chop the hot dogs into coins and halves before you walk out to the fire. This saves you work once you are enjoying sitting with your company by the warmth of roaring fire.
Kitchen Tip 3: These pies work better if you let the flames of your fire die down some before starting to roast over them. Smaller flames closer to the embers are easier to get an even toast over than tall unpredictable flames. I like to make my campfire “log cabin” style. This means I start with two logs on the base, and then put two more logs across them. I stuff all of my kindling inside the “cabin,” and then I’m ready to go.
4. While waiting for the flames of the fire to die down a little, grease the camp cooker. You don’t want to over grease them, because then the bread will take forever to get a nice golden toast, but you do want to make sure that the entire bases of the cookers are covered in butter. I do this by disconnecting the two sides of the camp cooker, putting ¼ tbsp of butter in each side, and then holding them over the fire until the butter is melted and sliding around to coat the entire base.
5. Once the camp cookers are prepped you need to take another step to protect the bread or “crust” of the pudgy pie. Make sure when you are setting the camp cookers down that they are out of the way of other people. They will be very hot after the butter melting process and would be painful for someone to accidentally bump into. Before constructing the pie, butter the outsides of the bread. Even though the camp cooker is greased, this butter on the bread allows an extra protection from burning, since it is very easy to char food when cooking over a campfire.
6. When the bread is ready, you can start to construct the pie. Set one buttered side of the bread down into the camp cooker base, then put a layer of chili on top of that bread. Make sure you are getting the chili filling close enough to the sides of the bread that you will be able to taste it with each bite, but don’t put it so close that it will eek out and make a mess.
7. After a layer of chili is down, sprinkle some hot dogs coins on top of it. I opted to have more chili than hot dogs, so I didn’t put a lot on. I also decided to put a second thin layer of chili on top of my hot dog pieces, but that is optional. Finally, finish you pie off by sprinkling about a ¼ cup of shredded cheddar cheese on top.
8. When the fillings are completed to your desired taste, put the other slice of bread on with the butter side facing the cast iron, and close up the cooker.
9. Cooking time can be a little different for each person depending on how hot the fire is burning when you roast the pudgy pie, but I like to roast mine for a minute on each side and then open up the cooker to check and see if it needs more time. If the fire isn’t that hot, it will probably take a bit longer to get the bread to a nice toasty brown, but if you are directly over a flame, that could be perfect.
When your pudgy pie is done, pass your cooker off to the next person, and enjoy your personal pie! Be careful on the first bite though, because sometimes the insides are VERY hot and can burn your tongue. Happy camping everyone!