Near Perfect Nachos
If you happen to follow me on Twitter you’ll know the actual meal that Betsy and I had for Valentine’s Day wasn’t the four course deal I posted last week. She asked for nachos and Coronas. Sounds good to me!
She may have asked for this dish because these are my nachos:
Let me start with a warning. If you make and consume these nachos it’s seriously possible that it will ruin all other nachos for you. I’m not saying that I don’t eat other nachos. I definitely do. But when I get them at a restaurant they tend to be more of a mushy chip dish with too many toppings and stale store bought chips. I still eat all of them, but the warning is that this could be one of those instances where ignorance is bliss.
Near Perfect Nachos
Yield: Two big plates of nachos
10 6-inch corn tortillas (or more), cut into sixths
3 cups of neutral oil for frying
Quick refried beans:
1 16-ounce can refried beans
1/2 medium white onion, diced
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Diced red onion
Cast iron skillet
Deep fry thermometer
1) To make homemade chips, chop corn tortillas into sixths. Add a few cups of oil to a large cast iron skillet and heat it over medium high heat until the oil registers 350 degrees. Fry chips in batches and don't crowd the pan.
2) Fry chips for about 4 minutes until they aren't bubbling and are slightly browned. Let chips drain on a paper towel and season with a pinch of salt. Repeat until all chips are fried.
3) Spread chips out on a few baking sheets and smear each chip with a small amount of refried beans. (Sautee beans with 1/2 diced onion and some butter in a small pot until softened)
4) Next top each chip with some diced jalapeno, red onion, avocado and a sprinkle of cheese.
5) Bake nachos at 350 degrees until cheese is melted.
Pile high and serve with sour cream, salsa, and guacamole!
Once you have these nachos you will want no other nacho. There are two essential tips to making these. First, you have to make the chips yourself. I’ve tried every store bought chip on the market and it isn’t even close. Using real corn tortillas and oil produce a thicker chip than most you’ll find in the store. This is important so you can load them up.
Also, they are super crunchy and whole. You won’t have that problem of having, like, half a chip that breaks in half when you pick it up.
So let’s make some. You can do this a few days before without a problem. They keep great. The only problem with making them ahead is that you will most likely eat them before it is nacho time.
Buy a package of corn tortillas. I bought mine from a local Latino market for 99 cents. There were forty tortillas and you want to chop them into fourths. If you are not math inclined, that is 160 chips.
As far as cooking goes, you will want about 1 liter of oil. I use my cast iron for this which is ideal because it really retains heat. You also want to use a neutral oil like canola or peanut oil. Heat your oil to 350 and throw in a few chips. Be sure not to crowd them. I could only fit about 12 at a time in my pan. If you crowd the pan then your oil will cool off too much and you’ll end up with soggy chips.
It will help if you can get your hands on a decent deep frying thermometer to monitor the heat of the oil.
These will take about 4 minutes to cook. Flip them once or twice while cooking. You know that they are getting close when they stop simmering. That means the water is all out of the chip and it is crispy.
Move the chips to a paper towel to drain quickly and then throw them in a big bowl with a sprinkle of salt. Once you get in the swing of things you can churn these out. If I’m making chips I like to make a bunch because they keep so well.
Some people will think that this is too much work. Those people have never had my nachos. That’s all I will say about that. It is so different from using store bought that it isn’t even debatable. Of course, I will eat store bought chip nachos. Because I love nachos. But it’s worth the work in this case.
Ok. now on to the nachos. I’m not a stickler when it comes to toppings. The only thing that is essential for nachos in my mind is cheese. So feel free to go crazy there. What really makes these nachos great is the process and the chips – not the toppings.
Betsy and I have a love for refried beans. So even though it was Valentine’s Day, we had to have some beans on these guys. Refried beans out of the can are kind of gross. The way to make them delicious is to sautee some onion (1/2 an onion) and a few cloves of garlic in a few Tablespoons of olive oil. Once that is hot, spoon in your beans and stir them around until everything is heated and combined.
If making your own chips is step one in making near perfect nachos, step two is to cook them like this:
Yes. Anally lay out each chip on a baking sheet. Why? Because it ensures that each chip stay crunchy and gets an equal amount of toppings. I really hate the dreaded no-topping chip in a nacho plate. Ok. I don’t hate it. But it is unpleasant.
Now you don’t have to be as crazy as I am distributing toppings on each chip, but I really like having a bite of everything on each little guy.
You don’t have to be so careful with the cheese. I used about 8 ounces of shredded cheese for two trays of nachos.
These only need about 5 minutes in the oven, at 350, and they are done. Basically, you just want to melt the cheese.
I served mine with salsa, sour cream, and homemade guacamole.
So why do I call them “Near Perfect”? Well, because I’m a firm believer that everything can be improved upon. And I never claim to present the absolute best version of dish. This is one time though where I feel I can claim at least near perfection.
While these might be more work than throwing some store bought chips in a dish with tons of toppings and baking the whole thing like a cassarole, it produces a different level of nacho. If you give it a shot, I promise you will not be disappointed.
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