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~ Nacho Mama's Buffalo Chicken Sheet-Pan Nachos ~

IMG_4111Research has revealed that nachos made their debut in Northern Mexico in the 1940's when a large group of hungry servicemen wandered into a restaurant where Ignacio Anaya was cooking. The savvy chef quickly threw some cheese over a big pan of leftover tortillas.  When it emerged from the broiler, he scattered his creation with jalapeño peppers.  When he presented the soldiers with his group-sized appetizer, after devouring it, they took it upon themselves to spread the word. Popularity came fast, and, along the way, nachos acquired an assortment of toppings.

IMG_4092Nowadays, the tortilla chip, just like the pizza crust, can be used as a foil for all sorts of creative takes on traditional Tex-Mex-style nachos. Anything that can be adapted to make a pizza can be transitioned to nachos: Philly cheesesteak nachos, Cincinnati chili nachos, Carolina pulled-pork nachos, Jamaican jerk nachos, Buffalo chicken nachos, etc. There's no trick to it.  Pick one innocuous cheese with great melting qualities, Monterey Jack is my all-purpose choice, then, season the protein accordingly and pick the toppings, meaning, stick to the flavor profile. Interestingly, no one is surprised by  fusion-food nachos -- they just can't wait to try 'em.

Use homemade or store-bought ingredients, or a combo of both.

While nachos can be as homemade or semi-homemade as you want, we can all agree, you only get out of something what you put into it, but, when the hankering for nachos hits, no one wants to wait longer than the time it takes to preheat the oven, visit the pantry and open a beer. That said, if one it willing to take the time to deep-fry fresh corn tortillas, instead of opening a bag of tortilla chips, nachos become a great deal better.  There's more.  If you're willing to season, grill and shred the chicken, instead of using leftover chicken or a store-bought rotisserie chicken, you've just kicked them up another notch.  Finish them off with a drizzle of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing and Frank's RedHot Wing Sauce, and you'll feel like you scored the game-winning touchdown.

Nachos need a perfect ratio of cheese to toppings on each chip.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4907b77200bThat's easy.  That's what I said, until I watched Alton Brown (on The Food Network) make nachos, and, from him I learned how to build better nachos. First, he used a sheet pan to increase the surface area so the tortilla chips can sprawl out (no more crowding them in a 13" x 9" casserole for me).  Second, he took ample time to top them, almost one chip at a time, to make sure that every chip had the perfect ratio of cheese to toppings.  Once you do it his way once, there's no going back.

Building better nachos, one tortilla chip at a time.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a46bde46200dIn my kitchen, nachos aren't always a snack.  Sometimes they're a meal. When I serve 'em as a snack, I make them on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" sheet pan that's been covered with foil and a sheet of parchment -- so cleanup is a snap.  When I serve 'em as a meal, I make 'em the same way, but, layer them in my oven-safe ceramic skillets -- a bit of cleanup, but a great presentation. One sheet pan feeds 6-8 people snacks. The same ingredients feed four as a main-dish in four 6 1/2"-7" skillets.

Nacho Mama's Buffalo Chicken Sheet-Pan Nachos.

IMG_407430  5"-round fresh corn tortillas (about 1 pound, 4 ounces), or 1, 16-ounce bag store-bought restaurant-style tortilla chips

2-2 1/2  pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, 6-7 large thighs

Frank's RedHot Buffalo-Ranch Seasoning Blend, for seasoning chicken thighs

8  ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 3 cups)

3/4-1  cup chopped matchstick carrots

3/4-1  cup small-diced celery

3/4-1 cup thinly-sliced scallions, white and light green part only

3/4  cup Hidden-Valley Ranch Dressing

3/4  cup prepared Frank's RedHot Wing Sauce, not Franks RedHot, or your favorite brand of wing sauce

IMG_9304 IMG_9307 IMG_9314 IMG_9314~Step 1.  To deep-fry fresh tortillas, divide tortillas into two stacks and cut each stack into six wedges.  Heat corn or peanut oil in deep-fryer, according to the manufacturer's specifications, to 375º.  When the deep fryer is ready:  Fry 2 stacks (two sixths) of the tortilla triangles for 2 1/2-3 minutes.  Chips will be lightly-browned and puffed in spots. Transfer to a large baking pan that's been lined with 3-4 layers of paper towels. Using a spatula, quickly and randomly separate the chips into a single layer and lightly salt their tops ASAP.  Repeat process 5 more times.

IMG_4044 IMG_4044 IMG_4044 IMG_4062 IMG_4062 IMG_4067 IMG_4067~Step 2.  On a flat surface, open the chicken thighs up so they lay flat and lightly-season them on both sides with the seasoning blend. Grill thighs over medium indirect heat of outdoor gas grill (or over medium- medium-high heat in grill pan on stovetop), flipping them over every 3 minutes, until just cooked through, about 25-30 minutes.  Remove from grill and dice the thighs into smallish bits and pieces -- not big chunks.

IMG_4076 IMG_4076 IMG_4076 IMG_4076 IMG_4076~Step 3.  Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with aluminum foil and a sheet of parchment.  To assemble the nachos, arrange chips across bottom of pan, in a semi-single layer, allowing them to overlap and double-up occasionally.  Scatter the shredded Jack cheese evenly over the chips, followed by the chicken, sliced green onion and blue cheese crumbles.

IMG_4096 IMG_4096 IMG_4096 IMG_4096~Step 4.  To bake and properly garnish the nachos, place on center rack of 350º oven and bake until Jack and blue cheeses are melted and bubbly, about 9-10 minutes. Remove from oven. Without any hesitation, scatter the diced carrots and celery over the top, followed by a drizzle of Ranch dressing and a drizzle of RedHot wing sauce.  Serve immediately.  Go eat!

Make movie night or TV tailgate special w/fully-loaded nachos.

IMG_4107Place pan on table or cocktail table & get out the napkins:

IMG_4115Snack your way from the outside of pan to center of pan:

IMG_4131Perfect ratio of chips & cheese to toppings?  You be the judge!

IMG_4129Nacho Mama's Buffalo Chicken Sheet-Pan Nachos:  Recipe yields 6-8 snack-size servings/4 main-dish servings.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; deep-fryer (optional); hand-held cheese grater; outdoor gas grill or grillpan; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" sheet pan or 6, 8" oven-safe ceramic skillets; aluminum foil; parchment

6a0120a8551282970b0240a442e6e9200cCook's Note: Undercover nacho tester.  I suppose it could get boring, but every eatery I've ever been to makes this Tex-Mex pub-grub staple a bit different  From nibbling on basic nachos topped with melty cheese sauce, to digging-into nachos-grande, nachos-supreme or ultimate-nachos piled high with a plethora of enough stuff to qualify for full-meal status, yes, I think undercover nacho tester could be my dream job.~ Na-Cho Mama's Fully-Loaded Sheet-Pan Nachos ~

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)


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