Food

Even fine dining chefs will admit to enjoying a Tex-Mex spread of nachos. By Andrew McConnell.

Buenas nachos

Recently, I watched sport more than I ever have: the Olympics on two consecutive days. It was actually a nice thing to do with the kids, to watch the Australians, and the gymnastics, and the unfortunate Japanese pole vaulter. It was the first time we’ve really eaten in front of the television as a family, and nachos was the order of the day. It was something I hadn’t cooked in 25 years, since my share-house days.

Weirdly, it was the second time nachos had come up in as many weeks. A few days earlier I had been cooking with a bunch of other chefs, and conversation turned to nachos. After service, over a few beers, guards dropped and there was a unanimous consensus that the dish is actually pretty good.

A New Zealand chef was talking about a staple of crumbed and deep-fried lasagna. Deep-fried pizza came up, which happens in Britain and some corners of the Commonwealth. And then we got to nachos.

One of the chefs had been at a country pub that served 20 different parmas. He opted for the nachos parma, with broken corn chips under the cheese and tinned refried beans and fridgey guacamole on top. This won on the scale of scary foods. The chef said it was actually quite good. And we did agree that in the right context, nachos are really fun to make and eat.

There’s not a lot to do to the cooking process when looking to improve what we might think of as nachos – you could add pickled jalapeños and so on – but what really makes this dish are the salsa and the guacamole.

The nachos I made for the kids was served with an American chilli con carne recipe that actually doesn’t have much chilli in it at all but is a foundation of Tex-Mex cooking. This chilli can be served with nachos or even smothered on a hot dog. Look out for that recipe next Olympics.

Nachos with guacamole, tomato salsa and chilli con carne

Serves 4-6

– 200g corn chips

– 150g cheddar cheese, grated

– 1 cup sour cream

– small jar pickled jalapeño chillies

– guacamole (recipe below)

– tomato salsa (recipe below)

– chilli con carne (recipe below)

First, prepare the chilli con carne, guacamole and tomato salsa.

Just before you want to serve the nachos, place half the corn chips into a shallow baking dish and cover them with half of the grated cheese. Pile the remaining corn chips on top and cover them with the remaining cheese. Bake the nachos in a hot oven for a few minutes until the cheese has melted.

Serve the sour cream, pickled chillies, guacamole, tomato salsa and chilli con carne alongside the nachos.

Guacamole

– 3 avocados

– ½ clove garlic

– 1 tsp salt

– 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

– 1 tbsp chopped mint leaves

– juice of 2 limes

– a few good shakes of Tabasco sauce, to taste

Roughly dice the avocado flesh and place it in a mixing bowl. Chop the garlic, sprinkle the salt over it and squash the garlic and salt to a paste with the flat side of your knife. Mix the garlic paste, coriander and mint into the avocado, roughly mashing the avocado in the process.

Stir in the lime juice and Tabasco sauce to taste.

Tomato salsa

– ¼ red onion, finely diced

– 2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced

– small handful coriander leaves, shredded

– juice of 1 lime

– pinch toasted, ground cumin

– 1 tsp olive oil

– salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and season with salt.

Chilli con carne

– 2 tbsp olive oil

– 2 garlic cloves, chopped

– 1 onion, finely chopped

– 2 tsp chilli powder

– 1 tsp ground cumin

– 2 bay leaves

– 2 tbsp plain flour

– 550g chuck steak, cut into 1cm cubes

– 550g ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced

– 2 tbsp tomato paste

– 400g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

– salt to taste

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for a few minutes until softened. Add the chilli, cumin, bay leaves, flour and beef and cook, stirring, for four minutes, or until the beef has browned.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, kidney beans and 500ml water, and stir to combine. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender. Season with salt.

Drink pairing:

Two Birds Golden Ale, Victoria ($22 a sixpack)

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 27, 2016 as "Nachos with guacamole, tomato salsa and chilli con carne". Subscribe here.

Andrew McConnell
is the executive chef and co-owner of Cutler & Co and Cumulus Inc.

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