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what makes good nachos?

  • r

Just had the worst nachos ever at a bad mexican place. I want to know what makes good nachos? Is it single layer chips, with cheese on each one? Is it loaded chips with beans, meat, guac, and all the other good stuff. thanks rodeo

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  1. Chips still crispy...cheese still gooey and runny covering most of the chips...a little salsa on them heating, but not enough to make it sloppy..
    sour cream, guac, salsa on the side

    1. The only nachos I eat nowadays go like this: put best quality tortillas chips (home fried from fresh tortillas would be optimal) on cookie sheet, spaced slightly apart. Top each one with a bit of good refried beans (homemade black beans would be optimal). Top that with a bit of aged Cheddar cheese and one slice of pickled Jalapeno. Bake in very hot oven until cheese melts. Serve with homemade pico de gallo.

      6 Replies
      1. re: escondido123

        The homemade refried beans make the dish for me. Plus the leftovers make a perfect vessel for fried eggs the next day.
        I start by making up a batch of refried black beans with onions, jalapenos and lots of cumin, spread a tsp. of the beans on each chip, top generously with grated cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, cover loosely with foil and bake in the oven at 300 for about 20 minutes. When it’s done, I sprinkle diced sweet onions and tomatoes all over the nachos and serve with sour cream on the side.
        Sometimes I switch it up and make a cheese sauce from the cheddar and jack mixed with a roux. The chips, spread with the refried beans, bake in the oven for about 10 minutes in the oven covered with foil. Then I sprinkle them with the onions and tomatoes and pour the cheese sauce all over the whole delicious mess.

        1. re: EM23

          Why covered in foil? I would think that could make the chips soggy.

          1. re: escondido123

            I started to do it when some of the chip edges would get a bit burnt but, come to think of it, I do use a thicker chip now, so maybe I'll leave the foil off next time to see what happens. They don't get soggy as the foil is just loosely tented, not tucked in enough to cause steaming.

            1. re: EM23

              Burnt edges on almost anything are something I happen to like :)

                1. re: escondido123

                  Ah, there we part ways, my friend. I like my chips unblemished.

        2. Chips.

          With good quality chips - thick, crunchy and redolent of fresh roasted corn - everything else is negotiable.

          1. By my personal preference -

            Good chips, ideally homemade, not piled too dep. Shredded cheese with some flavour, absolutely not any sort of cheese whiz style goop, not pre-grated either. A judicious amount of non soggy toppings - sliced pickled jalepenos (drained well), chopped green onions, mixed with the cheese. Cheese scattered relatively evenly over the surface. Cooked until the cheese is well melted and just starting to brown. Served immediately with home-made pico de gallo salsa and guacamole on the *side*. No sour cream anywhere near the platter.

            I don't like nachos with wet toppings - chili, or salsa or guacamole, or whatever - on the chips, because it makes the chips soggy, makes it harder to eat, and I find it makes them too heavy. And I'm not fond of sour cream in general.

            Worst nachos that aren't actually toxic - overly salty stale chips from a bag, doused in cheez-whiz like orange goop and microwaved until soggy, allowed to cool, and served with jarred salsa.

            2 Replies
            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

              "I'm not fond of sour cream in general."

              I suggest that you try Kalona Supernatural sour cream. It is unlike any sour cream you've ever experienced and may change your mind. It did mine:
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/875004

              1. re: MGZ

                I figure that give that basically the only two foods I actively dislike are sour cream and plain yoghurt, I can keep my two dislikes. :-) Plus, I have to make an hour an a half round trip to a specialty store to find *any* sour cream, and they only sell one brand.

                (I don't know what it is about those two things, but they are literally the only foods I will scrape off a dish where food poisoning is not a worry. And I like some pretty out there stuff, by western standards).

            2. Great nachos need to be fresh, crisp, and not greasy ... all else is secondary.

              1. I believe that nachos can be a thing of utter beauty - a fantastic array of flavors and textures and contrasts. I make them with all sorts of toppings and approach the platter with the goal of attaining the proper balance.

                Heavy/thick chips should always be the foundation - whether homemade or one of the thicker styles available from better markets. I like layers. Chips - cheese - chips - protein - cheese and then heat. After the platter comes out of the oven, the vegetables are placed on top - shredded lettuce or cabbage, onions, tomatoes and/or salsa, and, no matter what else, chiles, lots of chiles.

                The protein-cheese-chile balance is the key. For example, I like nachos with a milder Monterey Jack cheese if I'm using a beef based chili topping to which I'll add pickled jalapenos. On the other hand, when I make my lobster version, I have found that a saltier cheese like gruyere and habaneros are a better match. Then again, leftover pulled pork barbecue works great with sharp cheddar and fresh jalapenos (and maybe some Scotch Bonnets too).

                Lettuce or cabbage, along with the irreplaceable chopped onion, provide an essential textural component. A spoon of Kalona sour cream or thick Greek yogurt on top is also a way to add a temperature contrast and a capsaicin mitigator.

                1 Reply
                1. The key item is the chips - you can't have good nachos without good chips.

                  Put a solid layer of good chips on the pan. Top that with a spicy ground beef mix. Cover with a layer of shredded sharp cheddar/jack cheese. Make sure you have spillover of cheese onto the pan so you can scrape up the crusty bits while serving - YUM! Broil until the cheese is starting to brown. Serve with good salsa, home made guac and sour cream. Don't forget the beer.

                  This is one of my favorite "guilty pleasures".

                  1. Though piles of all the extras are fun, my ultimate nachos consist of only three things- good chips, good sharp cheddar, freshly shredded and laid on generously, and slices of jalapeno judiciously sprinkled here and there. I have to remove most of the jalapenos because I can't handle the heat, but they leave a lovely residual flavor in the bits of cheese just below.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: jmcarthur8

                      I wholeheartedly agree. Well, all but your last sentence. ;)

                      The one exception to your recipe is BBQ brisket nachos. Leftover brisket, shredded, dunked in a tangy-spicy BBQ sauce, sharp cheddar and pickled jalapenos can make for quite a meal.

                      1. re: jmcarthur8

                        Good 'ol classics. As their inventor intended them to be.

                        1. re: mamachef

                          Yep. Along with a mound of fresh guacamole made from avocados from the tree in the back yard.

                      2. Freshly made "salsa" and guacamole; warn chips, somewhat on a single layer, but it needs some that are not covered with cheese/salsa.

                        Melt the cheese as quickly as possible and serve on a WARM plate.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Maximilien

                          I totally disagree about melting the cheese quickly. I find that by putting the loaded platter (I use this funny pewter thing - just 'cause it's the right shape and size for a monster plate of nachos for two) in an oven on a lower setting - 275 to 325 depending upon the protein used - I get very little chip sogginess and and overall melding of flavors that is so essential to proper nachos.

                        2. I'll be honest, man, this is a topic I am in love with. I mean a good plate of nachos is a true tribute to food dorkiness globally. In fact, I think a chef should be tested by his ability to take some leftover protein - be it beans, chili, braised pork, fried chicken, whatever - and make an as*kickin' plate of nachos (none of this wussy omelette stuff). It's fundamentally like making a great pizza with toppings - it's all about the balance.

                          One nacho platter I failed to mention earlier was created when I took almost a pound of backfin crabmeat, placed it over the chips and cheese layer (camembert and fontina), dusted it with cumin, and when it was melty, took it from the oven and topped it with shredded Napa cabbage, fresh cilatro and oregano, chopped onion, diced heirloom tomato, and some really, really hot, thinly sliced serranos

                          1. For me, it's back to my childhood. When I lived in Hawaii, once a quarter ever student had to work one shift in the lunchroom. Fridays were always nachos, so since I was one of the good kids, I worked a few nacho Fridays. Maybe it was because it's wasn't the cold sandwich and box drink I brought everyday to school (family could not afford hot lunch but made too much for free/reduced lunch). But even my sibling have a small place in our heart for that kind of nachos. No surprise, my heart will always belong to tortilla chips, chili with beans, and process American cheese sauce. I know it's not for everyone. But when I get a plate full of those nachos, I'm a kid again.

                            1. For me, it's the mix of hot/cool and tender/crisp that does it. Warm chips, some heavy with cheese and beans (or chicken, or ground beef, or whatever), the crunch of green onions, regular onions, the unladen chips, crunch of pico de gallo, spicy salsa, meaty black olives, jalapeno slices, sour cream, maybe guac....
                              The only truly bad nachos I've ever had are the new menu item at the 99 (a chain that's ubiquitous in the Northeast).. The sauce is way too sweet and the cheese on ours was like farmer's cheese. Truly bad. I'd have gladly subbed Crockett's school nachos in a heartbeat, and scarfed them up.

                              1. I used to love those 7-Eleven nachos, with that "chili" that you pumped out of that tin canister and cheese that you similarly pumped from a different canister, all topped generously with chopped onions and jalapenos.

                                Those things got me through more than one marathon tennis match in high school.

                                Nowadays, if I even look at one of those thing I wonder how survived. Alas, how far I've come. That aid, I still hold a soft spot for 7-Eleven nachos.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Funny you should mention the 7-11 nachos. While I have not had them in probably 25 years, I thought of them earlier this week when I saw Joan Collins on the View. As poor college students, my best friend and I would leave work on Wednesday nights, when our shift was over, and head strait to the 7-11 for a 6-pack of beer and the nachos. Then we would rush to her apartment to wash Dynasty and feast on our “dinner”. I loved those nachos, and the cheese pump.

                                  1. re: EM23

                                    7-11 nachos, a sixer o' brew (Coors Lite, perhaps?) and Dynasty--so innocent, quaint and charming.

                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                      It may well have been Coors, Perilagu. Great memory, and she is still my bestie - we both make better nachos now. And drink better booze too:) As for the innocence, it wnet out the window with the Moldovian Massacre.

                                      1. re: EM23

                                        Heh. At first I thought you must have been referring to some terrible act by Ceausescu or Andropov. Then I Binged Moldovian Massacre and heaved a sigh of relief. :)

                                  2. re: ipsedixit

                                    Yeah, I've god a soft spot for 7-11 nachos too. Gloppy cheese and chili, pickled jalepenos, chopped onion are all necessary. They are about the only prepared food from a notional chain I have had in a decade - and I've had 'em a bunch of times. Kryptonite to my "anti chain" ethos. Surf, weed, Coors cans, 7-11 nachos - makes for the f*ckin' perfect day once or twice a summer.

                                  3. Oh my - So sorry Rodeo - Nachos can be a thing of beauty.

                                    I've eaten those funky shaped-like-a-bowl chips from the bag w/ the cheese sauce that comes in a micro-waveable jar, for lunch at work and actually had a co-worker try to 'share'. "Um, no, I'm double dipping". They made me swoon (the nachos, not the co-worker.

                                    Favorite nachos are to pre-heat the chips on a large pan in the oven in a single layer and once they are sizzling, put on all on the stuff you love - meat, cheese, beans, peppers, olives. Layer on what is wanted but w/ a large tray it can become a "make it your own" selection - leftovers or what ever you have in the frig.

                                    I insist on some hot peppers and then I want all of the salsa and guacamole on the side.

                                    1. I eat nachos a couple of ways. I love nachos with thick chips, Amy's refried black beans, cheddar or cheddar jack, melted in the oven and topped with fresh guac, sour cream, salsa, and maybe some jalapeno slices depending on my mood. Lately though, for a hearty snack, I've been making them with just cheese and topping them judiciously with guacamole and a smattering of sour cream followed by a pinch of salt. It's simple, but a thing of beauty. I've also done just cubed avocados on the cheese nachos instead of guacamole. I first had that at a few of the local joints run and frequented by Latinos. It's really good.

                                      1. I occasionally get a craving for the worst-possible version: liquid, Tide-box orange-colored cheese, and tamed pickled jalapenos. This is rare and generally only occurs after a generous application of alcohol. :)
                                        Last night's were about perfect, though not remotely traditional. I made the chips from tortillas made at a local tortilleria, so instead of being shattered little vehicles that eventually have to be scooped up w/ a spoon, the chips were crisp but sturdy. I bought a pint of carnitas at a local taco truck, a/w/a some great fresh refried beans. So that's the first three layers, which I topped off with cotija cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo and crema Latina, and a good few dashes of hot sauce. The carnitas came w/ whole pickled jalapenos, so I chopped a few and scattered over the whole mess. And dinner was ON!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: mamachef

                                          To which part of your body do you apply the alcohol? ;)

                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                            You know the old ditty for getting balky toddlers to eat -
                                            Past the lips and past the gums
                                            look out tummy, here it comes!
                                            :)

                                        2. Thanks everyone for your ideas. I will now only having nachos here at home when i make them.

                                          1. My husband insists that I make the best nachos, and refuses to make them himself unless I am really, really sick. (I'm chronically ill and disabled.)

                                            What it comes down to, is we like each and everyone of the chips to have a little bit of everything and a good bit of cheese. So I will carefully arrange the chips in a single layer on the tray, then start topping. A little bit of seasoned, grilled chicken on each one. A few black beans on each one. A little bit of homemade corn salsa (I'm allergic to uncooked tomatoes) on each one. Finely chopped green onion if I happen to have it. Then top all with shredded pepper jack cheese. (has to be shredded from the block, not that preshred crap.) Bake until melty and bubbly. Serve with sour cream and tomato salsa for DH on the side.

                                            1. I like mine with medium cheddar cheese (Tillamook where I live), re-fried beans, pickled jalapenos and plenty of nopalitos'. Served with guac, sour cream and salsa on the side.

                                              1. i like em soggy, and covered in everything you can find. the cheaper the toppings the better.

                                                the only nachos i dislike are the ones you get at ball parks and cheap casino bars. the ones with the round tortilla chips and the sauce that comes from a giant ketchup dispenser thats marked "nahco cheese"

                                                1. I used to believe that saying about pizza also equated to nachos: pizza is like sex, even when it's bad it's still pretty good. However, as I age, I've started to realize that pizza and nachos are like sex, and when they're bad, they're terrifying.

                                                  Because of that, I've set out to make the best nachos I can. Like many other posters, I believe it all starts with a quality base, good, salty, sturdy chips. I stick to cheddar cheese, the best I can afford, and make sure that every single chip is nicely coated with cheese. I like to add some sliced jalapeno, then I bake until the cheese starts to bubble and brown. I often will add blackbeans, and possibly some pico de gallo to the top once they have baked, served with homemade guacamole, salsa and sour cream on the side.

                                                  Now my question is, since many of you agree that the chip is key- are there any acceptable store bought brands that you use?

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                    If you've had bad sex, you're doing it wrong.

                                                    As to your other question, I think these are the best commercial chips for nachos, because they're hefty enough to support all the accouterments. http://www.gardenofeatin.com/category...

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      I like their blue chips myself.

                                                    2. When applying jalapenos...use fresh not that pickled bull shit.