Les’s Nachos for Dinner

One of the things I like about my marriage is how Terrie and I respect each other’s kitchen capabilities. I certainly know and trust in her judgment, but she also respects the way I can surprise her once in a while with a “guy” food. Like, say, nachos.

As with many guys, I like nachos from days in the sports bars. Great eats while grabbing a beer and watching a game. Somewhere along in my adulting—and I believe it began with thinking of new uses for leftover chili, but I can’t say for sure—I decided I could do nachos every bit as good as a sports bar, whose chips were typically stale and plentiful, while toppings were bland and sparse.

Over the years, I refined my approach to use a block of cheddar or Monterey jack or something similar (a suggestion from Terrie, who, as regular readers of this blog know, abhors shredded cheese in a bag), a fun protein and any of a number of complementary items before the oven or after: fire-roasted corn, onions, black beans, refried beans, pickled jalapenos (or fresh if you slice them thinly), scallions, avocados, guacamole, sour cream, salsa.

Lots of flavor and texture here.

The nachos I’m sharing here feature Terrie’s homemade chorizo, which I fried in a cast-iron pan along with some diced onions and then set aside. We prepped (Terrie contributed here, serving as my sous chef, a definite change of pace for us!) by chopping up some pickled jalapeno peppers (dry them first), avocado and scallions, while I shredded a little better than a cup combined of sharp cheddar and habanero cheddar. The fun part is putting this bad boy together. OK, I kid you all. It’s incredibly simple.

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Put a piece of parchment over a cookie sheet and then lay your favorite tortilla chips on to cover the surface. We used a blue corn chip put out by a company called Xochitl. They were very good, but if you can find a local restaurant with an awesome, homemade fresh chip, so much the better. A moment here to lament the loss of Tijuana Flats, a small national chain that was our “go-to” place for chips, which were freshly made, thin and perfectly seasoned. We used to buy bags of them for just $1.25 to complement any Southwestern or Mexican dish we made; these chips were the flagship of our annual Super Bowl party. Alas, the local restaurant closed at the start of the pandemic and we still miss it. The Xochitl brand is as close as we’ve found.

Anyway, with your chips nicely arranged (you shouldn’t see any big parchment peeking through), top first with your protein, which today was the chorizo-onion mix. I then sprinkled on a generous amount of chopped jalapenos and fire-roasted corn, and then the cheese. Off to the oven it went for 10 minutes. The nachos are done when the cheese is nice and melted. A side note here: We had believed a pre-made queso would work great rather than grated cheese, but it doesn’t. The heat of the oven breaks up the queso, and it runs underneath the chips, which makes them soggy. Freshly grated cheese is the way to go.

I topped this batch of nachos with scallions and diced avocado, and we served salsa and sour cream on the table. Probably a dozen or more years ago, I found this very wide spatula for handling fish and, wouldn’t you know, it works great for portioning out a generous mound of hot nachos.

Just call me Nacho Daddy!

Les's Nachos for Dinner

  • Servings: About 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Somewhere along in my adulting, I decided I could do nachos every bit as good as a sports bar. Here is my latest iteration of this 'guy food' served up as a meal at home.


  • About 1/2 pound bulk chorizo sausage (or other protein)
  • 1/2 medium sweet or yellow onion, chopped
  • Salt and pepper as needed (use your judgment, based on the flavor of your protein)
  • Enough corn tortilla chips to evenly cover a baking pan (about 1/2 standard bag)
  • 1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapenos, blotted on paper towels
  • 1/2 cup fire-roasted corn kernels (frozen is fine)
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (or other variety, such as Monterey Jack or colby; preferably not pre-shredded from a bag)
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
  • 1/2 large avocado, cubed
  • Sour cream and salsa, for serving

Feel free to substitute any favorite protein you have on hand. I’ve used cut-up chicken, ground turkey, ground beef and even black beans; it all works! If your chosen protein is unseasoned, consider adding some chili powder or other Southwest seasoning to the meat as it cooks. If you prefer less heat, swap in bell pepper for the jalapenos and saute them with the meat and onions.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F, with rack in center position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and cook sausage with onions until the meat is browned and onions are softened.
  3. Arrange tortilla chips over parchment paper. It’s OK for the chips to overlap, but aim for a single layer so that each chip gets some toppings. Scatter the cooked sausage-onion mixture evenly over the chips, followed by the jalapenos, roasted corn and grated cheese.
  4. Bake at 350 F for about 10 minutes, until cheese is melted all over. Immediately top nachos with scallions and avocado. Serve with sour cream and salsa at the table.

Les’s Atomic Buffalo Turds

The name alone demanded that I make this appetizer when I ran across the recipe sometime while preparing for my 2015 Super Bowl party. The fact that it was a heat-fueled bite made it even better. Not only did it pair well with my favorite chili, but it also helped get the guests to leave on time.

For some reason, I didn’t make these spicy bites for the 2020 Super Bowl bash at our house (the last time we actually had people over). And last year, when it was just me and Terrie for the Pandemic Bowl, no turds.

With this year’s Super Bowl coming up, Terrie asked me to make these and share the recipe, so here goes. I wish I could credit a specific source for these, but I cannot remember where I found the recipe. It’s just an awfully good one, and very conducive to substitutions of spices and topping sauce. So many different things can work. The key is the mix of sweet to offset the intense heat. The original recipe suggested cooking these on an outdoor smoker, but this adaptation is adjusted for baking in a home oven.

Behold, atomic buffalo turds!

My 2016 batch, enough for a houseful of hungry Super Bowl guests.

Ingredients (makes 12 pieces)

6 medium size jalapeno peppers, halved and trimmed*

12 li’l smoky sausages*

3/4 brick of cream cheese

1¼ tsp. smoked paprika*

3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (or less, if you’re scared)

6 slices of bacon, cut in half crosswise*

12 toothpicks

2 Tbsp. sweet rub seasoning*

Sweet finishing sauce*


  • Scoop out the innards of the jalapenos, removing most of the membrane and the seeds. However, if you really want heat, feel free to leave some of that membrane intact.
  • There are different brands of li’l smokies. Ideally, we’d love to find some without nitrites, but if they are made, we can’t find them. You can, however, probably substitute other kinds of normal size sausage and simply cut them down to the bite-size smoky portion.
  • There are many different types of paprika. For this batch, we used a bourbon smoked paprika we’d found online at Bourbon Barrel Foods.
  • I usually wrap the bacon raw around the jalapenos, but there is something to be said for lightly starting to cook the bacon in a skillet to render some of the fat and help it be more crispy later. But don’t cook it too long, or it will either burn or crack and fall off in the oven. Thin slices of bacon work better than thick.
  • The sweet rub seasoning can be anything you find that suits the bill; it is used to offset the heat. You can also make some your own, as we did in this case, using 3 parts of brown sugar to one part of Flatiron Pepper Co.’s dark and smoky BBQ rub. Flatiron is a very good specialty pepper company and we have enjoyed many of their products, which tend to bring the heat!
  • The finishing sauce is usually a sweet/tart, often fruit-flavored BBQ-oriented sauce. It goes on after the turds have cooked and provide a beautiful cooling note. Or, if you’re like us, you can look for a fruit-flavored-but-still-has-a-kick sauce. One year, I used a cherry-ancho BBQ sauce. For this batch, we had a raspberry-habanero sauce I’d bought from a friend who sells Pampered Chef products.


Preheat oven to 300° F.

The first thing to do is prep the jalapenos, which involves cutting off the stems, splitting them lengthwise and then taking out the seeds and membrane. The more of either you leave inside, the more the heat your turds will pack. Wash your hands thoroughly (unless you have kitchen gloves to work with, which I don’t) when you’re done. And don’t even think of getting that itch near your eye, even after you’ve washed your hands. Trust me. Been there, done that.

Prepare the cream cheese mix by adding the paprika and cayenne. The cream cheese will turn orange. Don’t be alarmed. It helps, by the way, to let the cream cheese get room temp for easier mixing. Scoop the cream cheese to fill the half jalapenos and be relatively generous. Then place one smoky right on top of the cream cheese, lining up your jalapenos on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Take one of the half slices of bacon and wrap around the jalapeno, covering the smoky and cream cheese mix and securing with a toothpick on top through the bacon. Push down through the smoky and keep going until you feel resistance from the bottom of the jalapeno. Do not pierce the jalapeno if you can avoid it, as that will cause the cream cheese mix to seep out.

Sprinkle a generous portion of whatever your sweet rub mix of choice is on each smoky and place the cookie sheet in the oven. Allow about 90 minutes. The long, slow baking time simulates the process of smoking them.

When the bacon looks done, remove the turds and brush or drip your finishing sauce on top of the turds. Then, enjoy the burn!

Good to the last scorching bite.