The Perfect Nacho

Growing up, I was fortunate to get home cooked meals, good ones. I recall helping my Mom each night in the kitchen, something I loved doing, while my Sister did her homework. That always baffled me, anything to get out of homework! Then again, she did go on to graduate from The Ohio State University a Magna Cum Laude in Interior Design while I majored in Communications and graduated early.

I digress, what blogs me here today, is the Nacho.

More specifically the joys of a tradition called Taco Night, an evening my Mother always made fun and delicious. I craved those nights, looked forward to them with anticipation. Now running a kitchen in my own home, I brought this tradition with me into my marriage to an Italian man. He digs into Nacho and Taco Nights now, much the same way he dug into bowls of pasta in his childhood home, with gusto and a seemingly bottomless stomach.

Imagine if you will–or gander at the photo below–a table of brightly colored bowls full of vibrant foods. One for tomatoes, one for lettuce, peppers, guacamole, salsa and so on.

I take pride in making everything from scratch in my house. Stewed Chicken, Carnitas, Guacamole, Salsa, Cuban Quick Beans, Nachos… well fried at home, I buy the tortillas to make them. The fun of the night would not be lost if you went the store-bought route, but if you have the time, it’s totally worth it to make everything from scratch. I never follow strict recipes, I rarely put out the same exact bowls or items in them.

The only secret to the night is how many tacos or nachos you end up eating.

Taco Night
Taco Night at home is about fun, brightly colored bowls and vibrant foods tempt you to eat just one more for hours.

Here are a list of my favorite dishes and must have items to bring to the table along with my sort of recipes:

Must Haves Bowls

  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Shredded/crumbled cheeses
  • Lettuce, how else will you pretend this is healthy?!
  • Hot sauce or a hot salsa
  • Chopped/pickled onions
  • Chips: try frying or baking them up on your own by cutting up store-bought tortillas. Oddly, I find we eat less in number because they are more filling. Nothing wrong with store-bought chips by any means but I like the substantial results of a homemade chip when it comes to piling on the toppings!

Guacamole for 2

If you don’t have a Molcajete, mash a clove of garlic with the side of your knife, sprinkle with salt and mash more to create a paste.

  • Add garlic paste to a bowl
  • Peal 1 Avocado and add to the bowl
  • Squeeze half a lime over and begin mashing Avocado into the garlic paste
  • When roughly mixed, toss in finely minced jalapeño, cilantro, tomato and onion to taste

Salsa for 2

In a bowl combine the following:

  • 5 of the best tomatoes you can find (Chopped)
  • 2 tomatillos (pealed, washed and finely dice)
  • 1 small spanish onion
  • 1-2 jalapeños (or a hotter pepper if you like)
  • Juice from half a lime
  • Cilantro (roughly chopped – add to taste)
  • Note: yellow/red bell peppers are a good substitute if you can’t find or don’t like tomatillos but I like the extra crunch and brightness they bring to my salsa.

Cuban Quick Beans

If you keep sofrito at home, it’s a good time to bring it out as it makes this recipe pretty quick indeed! If not hopefully you’ll have most of the ingredients chopped up in your prep stage for other dishes like the salsa/guacamole so it’s still pretty quick.

If you have it – warm a few tablespoons of softrito in a pan with olive oil, if not…

  • Heat oil in a heavy, large pan over a medium heat
  • Add 1 chopped onion, 2 chopped garlic cloves and sauté until softened
  • Add a chopped tomato (optional)
  • From a 15oz can of black beans, drain and add half to the pan, mashing with a fork, then add the remaining beans
  • Add 3/4 cup of quick homemade chicken broth and 1 1/2 Tablespoons of cider vinegar and simmer until the mixture thickens and the flavors blend
  • Remove from the heat and add a handful of chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Slow Stewed Chicken
A few hours of passive cooking time is totally worth it.

Slow Stewed Chicken

I make my own chicken broth at home with this quick recipe (I know shut up quick homemade chicken broth!) I often do Nacho/Taco nights the day after I make chicken broth to use the meat. Taking it one step further from boiled chicken to stewed chicken takes a little time, but it pretty simple and so worth it.

  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a dutch oven on the stove
  • Add 1 chopped onion, cooking for a few minutes
  • Add 2 chopped garlic cloves, 1 chopped carrot and cook until the carrot is soft then add 2 chopped tomatoes
  • Add a 2-3 cups of your homemade chicken broth and bring to a simmer
  • If you have an immersion blender, turn the heat off and blend the mixture well (cool and bring to a blender if not)
  • If you don’t have either – just chopped your vegetables well before adding to the pan
  • Toss in a handful of chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Add your chicken (from the chicken broth recipe above) and stew on a low simmer for a couple of hours
  • If you like heat, here is a tip I learned from Rick Bayless, slice a habanero pepper nearly in half and toss it in with the cilantro. As your stewing over the hours, you can check the taste of the chicken (remember it’s already cooked so it’s safe), that way – you won’t have blistering spicy chicken on the table – you can pull the pepper out at any time you feel the chicken is spicy enough.

Side note, I had the pleasure of meeting Rick Bayless during my days working at Food Network. He is just as nice and kind as you would imagine he would be from his show and since he’s a dead ringer for my Father, just a little shorter, I have a soft spot for him. I dream to one day cook as well as he does and have a rooftop garden too! A dream my Husband supports 100%.

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