Nachos have always perplexed me. From a grammar perspective, are Nachos singular or plural? Any AP or Chicago Style snobs willing to settle this debate—I heart you.
Nachos are also one of those foods that seem so simple and yet so rarely do we make them at home. Why is that? Why do so many of us wait to order nachos as a restaurant appetizer when we can easily make nachos the main event entree at home?
Why aren’t nachos part of our regular rotation? They have all the major food groups. You can easily make nachos vegetarian or piled high with pork, billowed with beef, or chock-full of chicken. Okay, you get it. Nachos are versatile. And who doesn’t love a food you can eat with your hands?!
While I’m stuck at home and sheltered in place, I’ve decided to find other ways to travel the world… mostly with my tastebuds. Try it! It’s like therapy. A remedy for “cabin-fever” I like to call “cabin-fever cuisine.” Allow your mind to wander to countries around the world via the kitchen, while you wait for the day when airlines ramp up flight schedules and we can intermingle in the flesh again.
Today we’re traveling a short distance to our neighbors on the southern border, Mexico, with homemade beef nachos.
Homemade Beef Nachos
- A bag of your favorite tortilla chips
- 1 lb ground beef (90% lean works well. Substitute ground turkey but make sure to use thigh meat so you have a little more fat)
- ¾ lb jack cheese (or pepper jack, or cheddar, or whatever melty cheese you like)
- 1 packet taco seasoning (or make your own. See below)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 medium tomato diced
- 1 red onion diced and divided
- 1 bell pepper (any color) diced
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro finely chopped
- ¾ cup your favorite salsa
- ¾ cup guacamole (see recipe)
- 1 can of beans drained (refried, whole, pinot or black….you choose)
- ½ cup pickled jalapenos (optional)
- ½ cup sliced black olives (optional)
- ½ cup sour cream (optional)
- The juice of one lime
- Salt and pepper to taste
Ingredients for homemade taco seasoning:
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp dried cumin
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp chipotle powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp black pepper
- ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
Cook the ground beef with half the taco seasoning over medium-high heat in a saute pan (or shallow rimmed saucepan). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Once cooked, scoop the meat out with a slotted spoon, place in a bowl and set aside.
To the rendered fat in the pan, add ¾ of the diced red onion, diced bell pepper and the remainder of the taco seasoning.
Once the onions and peppers are translucent, clear a small spot on the bottom of the pan where you can add the 2 tbsp of tomato paste (this is called a “hot spot”) and let cook for 30 seconds before mixing in with the vegetables. The reason you want to cook the tomato paste a little before mixing it in with the rest of the ingredients is to cook some of the metallic flavorings that sometimes come from being stored in a can or metal tube.
Add the reserved cooked beef to the vegetables and once combined, turn off the heat, and squeeze the juice of one lime for a bright hit of acid.
Preheat the oven to 350℉
In a large Pyrex lasagna-sized dish (or a rimmed baking sheet covered in foil or parchment paper) add your base of tortilla chips. This is all the chips you’re going to add so use as much or as little as you like.
Sprinkle half the grated cheese over the chips and then layer on top of that all the beef and vegetable mixture. Then dollop your beans over the meat. How much? Depends on how loaded you like your nachos. I like the ratio of “stuff” to tortilla chips somewhere around 2:1.
On top of the meat, add the fresh diced tomatoes, jalapenos and olives if you’re using them. Then cover with the remainder of the grated cheese.
Bake the nachos in the oven for 20-25 mins or until the cheese is melted and gooey.
When you take it out, top with dollops of guacamole, salsa, sour cream and garnish everything with the fresh cilantro and remainder of the red diced red onions.
Serve with a spatula or just dig in with your hands!