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.
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.
Les's Nachos for Dinner
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
- Preheat oven to 350 F, with rack in center position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and cook sausage with onions until the meat is browned and onions are softened.
- 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.
- 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.