Another totally Americanized dish! Actually, nachos are border cuisine— at least according to their Wikipedia entry, which credits their invention to one Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, a Mexican chef working at a restaurant in Eagle Pass, Texas. Both countries have adapted the recipe to their own tastes, and various American regional cuisines have made it their own. Nachos in the US are also a very common ‘plastic’ food, sold with horrible fake cheese sauce at ballparks and convenience stores everywhere. (Well, OK, I think it’s horrible. My dear husband, while agreeing that ‘nacho cheese’ is horrible in principle, totally loves the stuff.)
But here’s the thing about nachos: they’re a wonderfully customizable dish. They can be healthy or fatty, organic or chemical-laden, a light snack or a full meal. And they’re kind of like a stew, in that you can get creative and make use of whatever you happen to have in the refrigerator.
This version was our dinner a few nights ago, and it surprised us by being really delicious.
Grilled Chicken Nachos:
3 boneless chicken filets
Several generous handfuls of good-quality gluten-free tortilla chips (we used Trader Joe’s)
1 can black beans
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (we used the white kind from the Amish farmstand)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp roasted, ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
First, grill the chicken. We used a cast iron grill on the stovetop– you can do this on a real grill, or just brown them in a pan. Just rub with salt and pepper, brush the grill with vegetable oil, and brown. Make sure they stay juicy– don’t overcook! Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Roast the cumin in a dry pan for just a few minutes, until it begins to change color and release its oils. Grind. (Or use cumin powder, but trust me, fresh is better.)
Cook garlic in a little bit of vegetable oil until it just barely starts to brown. (You could also add a chopped onion or some peppers here, if that’s how you roll.) Add the canned beans, with their liquid. Stir in cumin and cayenne and slowly bring to a boil.
Arrange a generous layer of chips in a pie pan. Slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces and put over the chips. Add a layer of beans and a layer of cheese. Heat in oven for 10 minutes.
Add a few dollops of sour cream and serve hot. Other great additions at this point would be fresh salsa, guacamole, chopped cilantro, raw onions, a garnish of sliced lime, and/or hot sauce. Best served with cold cerveza.