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Chris Hennes

The search for the perfect nacho

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I know, I know, nachos are junk food. This psuedo-Mexican pile of random toppings on stale chips probably doesn't belong in the lexicon of "perfect foods." But I must admit... I love the *idea* of nachos. Crisp salty chips, melted cheese, cold guacamole: it sounds like heaven to me. Add some meat at it's practically dinner. So begins the quest for perfect nachos. And I'm not talking about some high-concept lobster-and-gouda "nachos". I'm looking for your basic late-night junk food nachos, but with decent ingredients and proper proportions.

The search begins here: Cabot monterrey jack, Cabot habañero, pickled jalapenos, Cook's Illustrated's recipe for taco meat, and Tostitos Natural corn chips (I prefer the blue, but the local Wegmans only has them in stock sporadically):

gallery_56799_5558_20055.jpg

Proportion is key: too much meat and the chips get soggy. Too many jalapeños and you can't taste anything else. Chips too salty? Same problem. Too much cheese? It congeals before you've finished and overwhelms the dish. Best served with homemade guacamole and salsa. While better than the garbage at the local sports bar, it's still not quite the stuff of legends.

So, how do *you* make nachos?


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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It has been years since a made a proper batch but when we ate them way too often it was

canned refried beans carefully spread on each chip then spread the chips in an even layer on a plate or cookie sheet and add taco seasoned ground beef and eaqual parts cheddar and jalepeno jack cheese. Broil until perfect or when we remembered they were in there and drizzle with salsa...we didnt know from guacamole back then

Super Bowl coming up hmmm

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I wouldn't even consider making nachos if I didn't have a steady supply of El Ranchero chips produced in Chicago.  These chips taste of corn and have a considerable thickness.  They are delicious.

http://www.consumatron.com/2006/10/el-ranc...salt-14-oz.html

Alas, living in East Nowhereville, I have no access to fresh tortillas or chips unless I make them myself, which doesn't quite fit the late-night snack food motif :smile: . I even make the taco meat ahead and freeze it. That said, I am really quite fond of the Tostito's Naturals Blue Corn chips - they are just the right thickness and saltiness for nachos, in my opinion. Of course, in my continuing quest for better nachos, I am willing to branch out on my chip selection...


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I propose there are two distinct Nacho camps. One camp uses real grated cheese (and whatever else) and melts it under a broiler etc. When you eat these it's a game of trying to release the most edible size shingle of gooey goodness without lifting the entire batch off the plate. The other camp says you need to pour molten cheese food on the chips and that other topings only polute the goodness. I'm partial to both, but when I want real nacho junk food I go with the molten fake cheese camp. I like the hot Queso or otherwise fake "nacho" cheese poured over or in a side bowl. Sliced pickled jalapenos must be present in shamefull numbers.


My soup looked like an above ground pool in a bad neighborhood.

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I propose there are two distinct Nacho camps. One camp uses real grated cheese (and whatever else) and melts it under a broiler etc. [...] The other camp says you need to pour molten cheese food on the chips and that other topings only polute the goodness.

I love both, but when I'm making them at home, the real cheese is the only option. In my opinion if you really have to struggle to separate a chip, there is too much cheese.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I love nachos, and haven't had them for too long.

For awhile, I took to making them fast and easy in the micro.

I would just take some tortilla chips and lay them out on a plate. Then I would spoon a tiny bit of salsa onto each chip, and cover with grated cheese.

Nuke till cheese melts, then add some diced green onions, and serve with salsa, sour cream, guac or all three.

The salsa under the chip would soften the chip a little in the middle, which is oddly satisfying for me, somehow.

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To me, the ideal nacho is made with real cheese, no meat, and is not complete without homemade refried pinto beans added on top. I layer the chips, beans, and cheese, and then cook in a high temp oven (rather than broiling, which is risky with my tendency to get distracted)... Agreed on the salsa to top (though I'm not personally a guac fan...) I'm partial to the Cape Cod veggie tortilla chips, vailable at most Wegmans'...

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Aha! I couldn't believe there were no previous threads on the topic of the world's greatest late-night snack - wonder why that one eluded my search?

I think the only reason I could find it was because I had participated in it. And my answer still stands--just cheese (a mix of monterey jack and medium or sharp cheddar is best) with some jalapeno peppers, served with a side of cooked salsa. Sour cream is optional. For me, nachos are just a good way to mix two of my favourite things--melted cheese and fried things (must be fried tortilla chips--nothing baked)--so nothing else is necessary. :smile:

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Take some corn puree and set it into thin sheets with agar.

Mix beef puree with transglutaminase and extrude it into an immersion circulator heated bath and arrange the strands on the corn sheets.

Cook wine, cheese and sodium citrate until smooth and spread into thin sheets. Allow to set, cut, lay on top of beef strands and heat in 170 F. oven just 'til cheese softens.

Top with alginate caviars of tomato, jalapeno and onion purees.

Add a spoon of xanthan/methycellulose/pinto bean juice foam on the side along with some bacon fat/tapioca maltodextrin powder and a xanthan stabilized cilantro oil and lime emulsion. :raz:

Sorry, just a feeble attempt at humor.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Take some corn puree and set it into thin sheets with agar.

Mix beef puree with transglutaminase and extrude it into an immersion circulator heated bath and arrange the strands on the corn sheets.

Cook wine, cheese and sodium citrate until smooth and spread into thin sheets. Allow to set, cut, lay on top of beef strands and heat in 170 F. oven just 'til cheese softens.

Top with alginate caviars of tomato, jalapeno and onion purees.

Add a spoon of xanthan/methycellulose/pinto bean juice foam on the side along with some bacon fat/tapioca maltodextrin powder and a xanthan stabilized cilantro oil and lime emulsion. :raz:

Sorry, just a feeble attempt at humor.

I thought it was funny! :biggrin:

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Take some corn puree and set it into thin sheets with agar.

Mix beef puree with transglutaminase and extrude it into an immersion circulator heated bath and arrange the strands on the corn sheets.

Cook wine, cheese and sodium citrate until smooth and spread into thin sheets. Allow to set, cut, lay on top of beef strands and heat in 170 F. oven just 'til cheese softens.

Top with alginate caviars of tomato, jalapeno and onion purees.

Add a spoon of xanthan/methycellulose/pinto bean juice foam on the side along with some bacon fat/tapioca maltodextrin powder and a xanthan stabilized cilantro oil and lime emulsion. :raz:

Sorry, just a feeble attempt at humor.

I thought it was funny! :biggrin:

You lost me at beef puree... I think I'm going to be sick now... :wacko::smile:

Mmmm....bacon fat. Now *there's* and idea worth considering. I have been playing with the idea of swtiching up the meat - maybe to something like carnitas. But I need something I can reasonably make large quantities of in advance and freeze.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I'm sorry, I tired to imitate the white cheese sauce from our favorite local Mexican place over and over and over and we could never get it to melt properly. I'm sure Chef-boy could make it now. But I think his Mom finally figured it out. I went to look up the name of that beautiful white Mexican cheese we bought so much of while we were experimenting and I learned that there's special kinds just for melting and just for making sauce. Glory no wonder we couldn't ever get it right.

So it's Queso Blanco or Asedero for the sauces & cheese dip.

But shoot I just get the take out. :biggrin:

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Living in Texas, I'm pretty used to nachos. I much prefer the real cheese, grated and then topped on chips which are placed in a hot oven or under a broiler. If you want to for the suacy kind, I would suggest making a good cheese dip (usually called "Queso" on restaurant menus) and just dip chips into it.

For the former type, you have the right idea on going easy with the toppings. Don't over load. (really, it's like making a good pizza) Home made [re]fried beans are really easy with canned beans. Get some bacon fat in a pan, heat it up, and a little garlic, then dump in the beans. Mash 'em up and cook them down.

For cheese, I jsut use simple grocery store brand cheddar. usually a medium shard cheddar. Sometimes, I also mix in monterrey jack.

For a variation on the meat, get fresh Mexican chorizio. Brown it like you would brown ground beef. It's allready spiced and seasoned, making prep simple.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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You lost me at beef puree... I think I'm going to be sick now...  :wacko:  :smile: 

Sorry Chris, wasn't trying to mess up your thread. I was just trying to be funny. The agar "corn chip" would suck for nachos, no crunch. No good reason to puree and reform strands of beef. A wine flavor in the cheese wouldn't be too nacho friendly, maybe beer instead though? The bean foam would work but can't really think of much point to it for nachos other than maybe to get a bean flavor without the heaviness which probably isn't a top-level concern to the person sitting down to a big plate of nachos. Of course bacon powder is tasty but so is bacon not as a powder and that would be much easier for nachos. But maybe I will make some tomato, jalapeno and onion caviars, coat them in a cilantro and garlic oil/lime juice emulsion, top 'em with a little sea salt and call it Molecular Salsa... or use habanero caviars instead and call it Atomic Salsa! :biggrin:


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Agree with the limited toppings, the pizza analogy is apt.

I like to use grated cheese (sharp cheddar or pepper jack or both), refried beans (we get a brand locally called Ducal in a green can, refried black beans from Guatemala that are very tasty), and a little leftover chili. Broil and when they come out, scatter some diced onion, diced tomato, and shredded iceberg lettuce on top. Wife is more partial to guac and sour cream than I am.

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Pulled pork sub'd for the ground meat is good too.

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I say go with carnitas or sliced up carne asada instead of ground beef. I also prefer black beans, not refried. I also like some kind of salsa on the bottom, like Chilula or Tapa Tio. Agree with the jack cheese and pickled jalapeno. Guac, no sour cream. Maybe some caramelized onions or roasted bell peppers (if I have some already on hand).

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Cholula under the chips... what a good idea.

I like large pintos for nachos because of the texture, but black beans have a nicer flavor. I prefer most other meats to ground beef. If I'm not looking for a really quick snack I won't hesitate to whip up some taco meat with ground beef for nachos, but Mexican chorizo is my favorite option for fast nachos.

I tend to think of cheese-sauce nachos as the crunchy cousin to mac and cheese.


-- There are infinite variations on food restrictions. --

Crooked Kitchen - my food blog

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I sense some resistance to ground beef: in its defense, I am using chuck roast that I grind myself, so I don't think there is anything intrinsically wrong with it. The ground chuck has a good beefy flavor that stands up well to aggressive mexican-style seasonings. It also freezes and reheats quite well. While I love pork (hey, that's a pork belly I'm hugging in my current avatar), and chorizo is excellent, I don't want to discount the ground beef if the only resistance to it is that the pre-ground crap at the supermarket is essentially inedible (I won't argue with that...).


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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how can i make nacho cheese like the one in the packet? i live in the uk, so consider my options in your reply please.

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how can i make nacho cheese like the one in the packet? i live in the uk, so consider my options in your reply please.

Could you describe it? Is this the "nacho cheese gel" or the "nacho cheese powder" that you are looking for?


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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