Thursday, March 19, 2009

Nachos, hold the cheese

Not much goin on, just snackin' lately.

Wanted to make nachos, but didn't feel in a cheese mood. No problemo.

I also didn't have a bag of tortilla chips. That's a good thing. One, it's relatively expensive, and two, you can make tastier chips with almost no effort. All you need are those huge stacks of soft corn tortillas you can find in either a hispanic market, or in the hispanic section in almost any grocery store anywhere. Find the bag of tortillas with the most Spanish and the least English on it, because they're usually cheaper. Why's that? Because of marketing forces! Smart people know that people who don't know better will buy food as long as it has a pretty wrapper, a nice rustic picture, and easy English words they understand. See, they think they're getting something special that way, when in actuality, they're paying a premium for that pretty picture of a senorita with an overflowing basket and "Juanita's quality stone-ground corn tortillas" in big easy English words.

Seriously, go play this game. Find food items that show up both in the hispanic section of your store and elsewhere. I found a jar of artichoke hearts for $4.00 in the general produce area. A jar of the same volume but in a much more drab label in Spanish? Two bucks. Whenever possible, I always buy the hispanic groceries, and you should too.

At any rate, I have my nice bag of soft corn tortillas. If you've seen my previous blog posting on street cart tacos, you know the kind. Get a stack of them on a cutting board and make a nice clean cut, and a cross cut across to form a stack of four quarters. Now if you'll also remember when we made Indian papadi chaat, we want to heat up oil in either a deep fryer or skillet or what have you. Once that's at a very high temperature (like about a notch or two below fully high), we add the tortilla chips. These are going to cook VERY fast, so the moment you drop each chip into the oil, flip them over in the order you dropped em, and by the time you finish that, the first ones will be ready to come out. You want them in the oil about 30 seconds to a minute total. If your oil is very hot, thats all you need to make wonderful crispy chips that aren't soggy. Put them on a rack or on some paper towels and sprinkle ground kosher salt on top.

From there, I open up a tin of black peas and a tin of diced tomatoes. If you want to dice your own, go for it. Drain those and set each aside. Next, you want to make guacamole. Please don't buy somebody else's guacamole it's expensive and it probably sucks. You can make way better stuff. Take an avocado, peel that, and drop it into a food processor, followed by four cloves of garlic, two tomatillos, a diced serrano chili or a teaspoon of dried chili flakes, a teaspoon of salt, and juice from a lime. Pulse that just to the point where they're combined, but nothing more. Scoop that out and reserve.

Arrange your chips on a plate, top with your beans and tomatoes, dollop guacamole on top. I also like salsa roja dabbed around the chips, or any salsa with a bit of heat but still good flavor. To top that off, add a few leaves of fresh cilantro, because it makes Mexican food taste soooo good.

If you just cannot part with cheese, get some crumbled queso fresco (again, shop the hispanic section please!). It's gentle and subtle. Do not get that neon yellow "nacho cheese". It's way too heavy with fresh fried chips, and you're already getting a bit of fat from the avocado.

I can't imagine good mexican food without super cold Cerveza and a lime, so that's my worldview. If you don't swing beer or whatever, stop before you leave the hispanic foods section and grab a can of coconut water. It's tasty!

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