Doesn’t it seem like there’s an expert on everything these days?
I even tuned into the TODAY Show the other day and found Natalie and Savannah being schooled by a dishwasher loading expert. (At which point I questioned, for the 121st time, why I watch the TODAY Show…)
I have never climbed on a surf board, I generally try to avoid snakes and coupon clipping, and, as A. will most certainly confirm, I am far from an expert when it comes to loading my poor, put-upon dishwasher.
I am, however, a confirmed Nacho Expert, both in terms of preparation and consumption.
And today, I’d like to share some of my most expert tips with you.
Expert! Get ready!
Tray after tray of nacho goodness has taught me that there are 3 cornerstones to perfect nachoing:
2. Cheese Meltiness.
Let’s break it down.
Construction: Most establishments serve their nachos as a platter of chips topped with gobs of gear and finished with melted cheese. I’m here to tell you that 9.65 out of 10 Nacho Experts, including myself, strongly eschew this mode of nacho construction. Why? Because when it comes to nachos, there’s no need to gild the melted cheese lily. You’ll get your fill of additional flavors when we get to the condiment stage. Instead, when it comes to construction, the focus should be on spreading your chips in an even layer on strong, rimmed baking sheet and topping with just a sprinkle of one or two fresh ingredients. I usually opt for green onions as I love their herbaceous flavor. Here I’ve added in some silly good roasted, smashed chickpeas. Other options are black beans, chopped chives, whole kernel corn, and fresh or pickled chiles. And now you’re ready for the cheese.
Cheese meltiness: I’m just going to hit you with this one straight up – I strongly advise grating your own cheese when it comes to nachos. The truth is that hand-shredded cheese melts WAY more easily and evenly than store-bought shredded cheese. I know, I know, the whole elbow-grease factor… if you’re really not in the mood for an upper body workout, feel free to shred your cheese using the proper attachment on your food processor. But do yourself and your nachos a favor and skip the store-bought shredded cheese. In terms of selection, you’ll want to go with a mild to medium sharp melting cheese; I most often opt for queso Chihuahua, cheddar and/or Monterey Jack.
Condiments: This is your chance to go nuts! Nuts, I say! I usually try to plan a balanced but thorough condiment selection including a tomato-based salsa, an avocado-based salsa, a cream- or crema-based sauce, and at least one pickled offering. If you’re going to skip any of these, don’t skip the pickled stuff: tart pickled preparations are the perfect topping for crunchy, creamy nachos – you can go with anything from pickled chiles to pickled jícama to pickled corn, just don’t skip the pickle.
You’ll note that one thing that I didn’t mention is chip selection. I’ll be honest with you: while I make so many things in my pantry and refrigerator from scratch (ketchup, salsas, tortillas, hot sauce, etc.), I rarely make tortilla chips from scratch; I just don’t feel that it’s necessary. Just a few moments on the chip aisle can easily yield a sack of preservative-free, trans fat-free delicious tortilla chips, thus rendering your own need to get your fry on completely unnecessary. You can use the time that you would have been frying your tortilla chips to grate your cheese! See how this is all working out? That’s the benefit of getting your advice from a bona fide expert!
Now that we’ve discussed the basic tenets of successful nachoing, you’re reading to dig in with some fantastic Roasted Chickpea Nachos and a selection of the best fixings around, including Guasacaca (an avocado-based salsa) and some Quick Pickled Chiles.
It’s my expert opinion that you’re going to love these nachos.
It’s my expert opinion that you’re going to love these fixings.
It’s my expert opinion that you’re going to love these nachos and fixings way more than you would some expert advice on how to load your dishwasher.
I’m just sayin’…
Roasted Chickpea Nachos With All The Fixings
recipe for the Guasacaca adapted from Serious Eats
For the pickled chiles:
1 1/2 c. sliced chiles (While you can use any variety of mild to hot chiles that you would like here, I have found that jalapeño chiles, Fresno chiles, and serrano chiles work best. To prepare, simple remove their stems and slice horizontally into thin rings.)
4 tbsp. lime juice, freshly squeezed
1 tbsp. white distilled vinegar
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
For the guasacaca:
2 large avocados, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
1 small white onion, roughly chopped
1 small green bell pepper, stemmed and roughly chopped
1 large jalapeño, stemmed and roughly chopped
1/2 c. cilantro, packed and roughly chopped
1/4 c. parsley, packed and roughly chopped
1/4 c. white distilled vinegar
1 tbsp. lime juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
For the nachos:
1- 12 oz. bag tortilla chips
2 bunches green onions, ends remove and diced
2- 15 oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed and patted dry
2/3 c. + 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. coriander, ground
1 tsp. cumin, ground
1 tsp. ancho chile, ground
juice of two large lemons
1 c. Monterey Jack cheese, hand shredded
2 c. medium sharp cheddar cheese, hand shredded
Preheat oven to 350°.
To prepare the pickled chiles, toss all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Note that I will often prepare these pickled chiles several days before serving as their flavor only deepens with time. If preparing in advance, store the chiles in a sealed container, preferably a glass jar, in the refrigerator.
To prepare the guasacaca, place all of the ingredients except for the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process to a smooth, uniform sauce and, with the motor still running, stream the oil in through the feed tube. Remove and serve immediately or store, covered and refrigerated, for up to 4 days.
To prepare the nachos, spread the tortilla chips onto a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer. Top with chopped green onions and set aside.
Meanwhile, toss the dried chickpeas, one tablespoon of the olive oil, the salt, coriander, cumin and ancho chile together in a ziptop bag until the beans are evenly coated. Spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 35-40 minutes or until the chickpeas are shriveled, darkened and fragrant. Remove and set aside to cool slightly. Place cooled chickpeas with lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process to a thick, uniform paste. With the motor still running, stream the remaining olive oil in through the feed tube, stopping to scrape down the side of the bowl as necessary. Finished chickpea paste will be thick, uniform and moist.
Remove chickpea paste and drop in large spoonfuls onto the tortilla chips. Top with even layers of shredded cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted through. You may choose to place the nachos under your broiler for just a few minutes to finish. Remove and serve immediately with Guasacaca, Quick Pickled Chiles, a tomato-based salsa such as this one, and a cream-based sauce such as this one.
YIELD: approximately 6 servings