A baking sheet of nachos is a great starter for a crowd and allows for the fast-and-easy version with storebought chips, canned beans, and jarred salsa or all-out effort with homemade tortilla chips, beans from scratch, and fresh guacamole.
It’s tempting to want to pile the chips as high as possible with toppings, but overloading quickly makes them soggy. Keep it thin; a baking sheet is your friend here.
Makes: 6 to 8 servings
Time: 30 minutes with premade tortilla chips and canned beans
1 1/2 cups drained cooked or canned black, red, pink, or kidney beans
8 to 12 ounces tortilla chips
2 cups grated cheddar, Jack, or other mild cheese
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 or 2 chopped jalapeño chiles
1 cup salsa of choice
1 recipe guacamole (optional, see below)
Heat the oven to 375°F. Meanwhile, warm the beans and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread the chips in one layer in a shallow pan with a rim, such as a pizza pan or a baking sheet. Top with the beans, then the cheese, and bake until the cheese melts, about 10 minutes.
Sprinkle with the scallion and/or jalapeño and serve immediately with bowls of salsa and guacamole on the side.
Some other topping ideas: chopped cilantro, Mexican crema or sour cream, chopped tomato, chopped red or white onion, cooked ground beef, seasoned with chili powder, grilled shrimp, grilled or broiled boneless chicken, or shredded pork.
Fried Tortilla Chips
Makes: 4 to 8 servings
Time: 15 to 30 minutes
You can make tortilla chips at least as good as the ones at the neighborhood restaurant. Freshly made chips are especially delicious if you use good lard. Eat them as they are or use them to make nachos in the recipe above.
Lard or good-quality vegetable oil for deep-frying
12 corn tortillas, 6 or 8 inches in diameter
Put at least 2 inches of fat in a large pot over medium-high heat; bring to 350°F. The broader the vessel, the more chips you can cook at once, but the more oil you will use. (They cook very quickly, so don’t worry if your pan is narrow.)
Stack the tortillas and cut them, pielike, into 6 or 8 wedges. Fry as many at once as will fit without crowding, turning if necessary. Total cooking time will be about 2 minutes; the chips should just begin to darken in color, not brown. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and drain on towels or paper bags. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot or at room temperature.
Makes: 8 servings
Time: 10 minutes
2 large or 3 medium ripe avocados
1 ripe tomato, cored and chopped (optional)
1/4 cup chopped onion or shallot
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, or to taste
1 seeded, minced serrano or jalapeño chile, or cayenne to taste (optional)
1 teaspoon (or to taste) chili powder
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or to taste
Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
Halve the avocados, then pit and peel. Mash the pulp in a bowl with a fork or potato masher, and stir in the tomato (if you’re using it), onion, garlic, chile (if you’re using it), chili powder, salt and pepper to taste, and lime juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
Garnish with cilantro and serve, or cover with plastic wrap, pressing down so there is no air between the guacamole and the wrap, and refrigerate for up to 4 hours before garnishing and serving
Orange-Glazed Black Beans
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes with cooked beans
Beans often benefit from some acidity. The sweetness of oranges is perfect with black beans. Other beans you can use: pinto or pink; black-eyed peas.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup fresh orange juice
3 cups drained cooked or canned black beans
1 tablespoon chili powder or ground cumin
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and pepper
Put the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the orange juice, beans, chili powder, and honey. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bring to a steady bubble and cook until the liquid is slightly reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot, or refrigerate for up to 3 days; reheat gently.
Recipes from “How to Cook Everything.”