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Chorizo nachos are just one of the many delicious options for spicing up Sunday's game. (Photo courtesy of Kita Roberts)

Five Ways to Spice Up Your Super Bowl Nachos

There is more to nachos than Velveeta and jalapeños

Strangely enough, nachos have a similar history to that of the Caesar salad: created by accident and in Mexico for the American palate to accommodate the lack of something in the kitchen. In the case of nachos, that something lacking was the chef.

Nachos are said to have been first created by Ignacio Anaya, the maître d' at the Victory Club restaurant in Piedras Negras, Mexico. During World War II, army wives stationed at Eagle Pass, Texas, would drive over the border to Piedras Negras. On one outing they stopped into the Victory Club and with a missing chef, Anaya threw together what he could find. In Andrew Smith’s The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, it says the first nachos “consisted of neat canapes of tortilla chips, cheese, and jalapeno peppers."

Anaya’s nickname was Nacho and so he called them nachos especiales. And through popularity, “nachos especiales” became just nachos.

But there is so much more that can be done with nachos. Though the classics will always remain, the possibilities for creating nachos are endless. 

Before getting into the delicious ways to make nachos, here are some basic tips. Use thicker tortilla chips as they will be less likely to break than the thinner restaurant style ones. Heat the oven to 425 ºF and line a baking sheet with foil so it goes slightly over both edges of the sheet. Put the oven rack somewhere between the middle and top of the oven. Bake for about 5-10 minutes or until the cheese melts. Check on the nachos after 5 minutes for a better estimate. For loaded nachos, make two layers of chips, putting half of everything on the first layer and the rest on the second.

Now, for the good stuff.

Here are five ways to spice up your nachos for this Sunday's game.

1. Chicken Tinga Nachos

Nacho layers in order of assembly; from bottom to top
Chips
Cooked black beans
Chicken Tinga
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Salsa Verde
Sour Cream, Crema or Crème Fraiche
Guacamole

Though nachos were created in Mexico, they did not catch on with the Mexican population and crossed right over the border to Texas, where they quickly were embedded in American culture and cuisine. These chicken tinga nachos are an attempt at bringing back those authentic Mexican flavors.

Before assembly:
Chicken tinga is shredded chicken that has been simmered in a delicious tomato chipotle sauce. The first step in making the nachos is making the chicken tinga and Chef Patricia Jinich has a great recipe. You can make the tinga ahead of time, at most 2 days in advance, and slowly re-heat on low on the stove or in a slow cooker until it begins to warm. Make sure you stir the meat when re-heating, because you want it to heat evenly.

The most flavorful black beans are those bought dry and simmered for hours in a broth of garlic and onions. If using canned beans, you can still add a little flavor to the beans before pouring on the nachos. First, drain and rinse the beans. Then cook a couple cloves of chopped garlic, chopped onion and for a kick, half of a chopped jalapeño in vegetable oil, safflower oil or olive oil until translucent. Add the beans and a little salt to taste and cook for about 15 minutes.

Assembly:
Arrange the tortilla chips on the lined baking tray. Then spoon the beans on top of the chips with a slotted or straining spoon. This is more of a concern with the simmered beans as they are cooked in a decent amount of liquid. Smother with chicken tinga. Then cover with shredded Monterey jack cheese. Put the tray in the oven and remove when the cheese melts.

Spoon on the salsa verde and drizzle the sour cream. If looking for something that is less tangy, try crème fraiche or Mexican crema. You should be able to find either at a major grocery store or if not, at an ethnic food store. For extra flavor, add a tablespoon (or two) of limejuice to the cream. Add the guacamole in spoonfuls across the nachos.

Another way of making Chicken Tinga Nachos

2. Spicy Chorizo Nachos

Nacho layers in order of assembly:
Chips
Refried Pinto beans
Chorizo
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Pico de gallo
Pickled jalapeños

Why spend hours brewing chili when you can simply cook up some spicy Mexican chorizo for a different yet equally delicious flavor?

Before assembly:
If making homemade refried beans, using the dried beans is ideal. Though simmering the beans, as mentioned above in the chicken tinga nachos, can be a process, the beans can be made ahead of time. After simmering, all that is left to do is mashing the beans with a little cooked onion and some of the broth the beans were cooked in. If not, you can cook canned beans as directed above and mash with a potato masher. Then slowly add water to get the right consistency, so the beans are neither a thick blob nor runny, just smooth and creamy.

Cook about one pound of chorizo. If you can’t find Mexican chorizo or if it is a little too spicy for you, use any spicy sausage. Remove the casings and cook the meat in a large skillet until brown. Break the sausage apart with a spatula while cooking. It doesn’t have to look like ground beef but just so the sausage can be easily spread across the chips.

Assembly:
Lay the chips on the lined baking pan. Spoon the beans across the top. Then layer the chorizo, covering the surface. Sprinkle the shredded Monterey jack. Cook in the oven until the cheese melts.

Spoon the pico de gallo across the nachos. And, homemade pico is really simple to make. Chop up a few pickled jalapenos and sprinkle on-top.

Another way of making chorizo nachos

3. Pulled Pork BBQ Nachos

Nacho layers in order of assembly:
Chips
Pulled pork
Shredded Cheddar cheese
Chives
North Carolina slaw

These nachos are exactly how they sound and are basically a pulled pork sandwich in nacho form.

Before assembly:
Making pulled pork may sound a little intimidating, but the wait is definitely worth it. Here are a few slow cooker recipes. The pork can be made ahead of time (at most two days) and re-heated on low until warm.  Or an easier option is going to your local bbq joint and getting some already cooked pork.

Assembly:
Lay the chips on the lined baking sheet. Cover the chips with the juicy, sweet pulled pork. Sprinkle the shredded cheddar and chopped chives on top. Place in the oven and bake until the cheese melts.

The tangy North Carolina slaw is the perfect compliment to the sweetness of the pork. Spoon the slaw across the nachos and you are done.

4. Asian inspired nachos

Nacho layers in order of assembly:
Char Siu
Mozzarella
Sweet chili sauce
Chopped scallions
Lime slices

Char siu is Cantonese barbecued pork and is usually served with rice, ramen noodles or in a steamed bun. This sweet meat is already addictive, so why not make a nacho out of it?

Before Assembly:
Char siu is relatively easy to make but requires time to marinate. Watch this video for a great marinade. You can marinate the meat the night before and roast in the oven the day of. After roasting, simply slice thinly.

Assembly:
Lay the tortilla chips on the lined baking sheet. Cover the chips with the sliced char siu. Sprinkle with shredded Mozzarella cheese. Though mozzarella may seem like an odd choice for char siu it is incredibly mild and will add a little flavor without interfering with the barbecue and chili sauce. Add the chopped scallions on top and bake until the cheese is melted.

Drizzle the sweet chili sauce and squeeze the fresh lime slices over the nachos.

* For something different, instead of using tortilla chips, fry up some wonton wrappers.

5. Roasted Mushroom Fontina Nachos

Nacho layers in order of assembly:
Roasted Mushrooms
Fontina
Balsamic glaze

These nachos are a great example of the cheese acting as a guide to the rest of the toppings. There are so many cheese options that can work for nachos besides the highly processed cheese sauce found in ballpark nachos. Basically, any creamy cheese that will melt easily and has that right punch of flavor will work. A couple other uncommon options include Oaxaca, pepper jack, gouda, havarti, manchego and even a smoked gouda.

For these nachos it is about the earthy flavor of the mushrooms combined with the nuttiness of the fontina and the sweet and tangy contrast of the glaze. These nachos are simple but delicious.

Before assembly:
First, roast a variety of mushrooms in a baking pan with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme. Here is a recipe for roasting cremini and shitaki mushrooms. You can find balsamic glaze in major grocery stores and gourmet food and cookware stores. But, it is simple to make and can be made days ahead of time.

Assembly:
Lay the tortilla chips on the lined baking sheet. Sprinkle some of the shredded fontina over the chips. This way the cheese will sandwich the mushrooms to the chips. Then pour the mushrooms on top. Sprinkle the remaining fontina and bake until the cheese is melted. Drizzle the balsamic glaze across the nachos.   

Another way of making fontina nachos

What is your favorite nacho recipe?

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