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

IMG_2025Spicy fajitas and cheesy nachos.  Together.  Carefully layered on top of each other on a sheet pan.  Yes, a sheet pan.  Why?  Because nachos require a perfect ratio of cheese-to-toppings on each chip and the sheet pan provides the surface area needed to accomplish that.  Nothing is sadder than picking up a cheesy nacho to find no goodies on top of it, or worse, picking up a nacho chip overloaded with goodies to the point they all slide off onto the plate or your lap. 

Research 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.

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.

Make your dinner & a movie night special w/fajitas nachos:

IMG_195430  5"-round fresh corn tortillas (about 1 pound, 4 ounces), deep-fried as directed below, or, 1, 16-ounce bag store-bought restaurant-style corn tortilla chips

1  pound (16  ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 6 cups)

2  9-ounce cans refried bean dip

3-3 1/2  cups my recipe for One-Skillet Tex-Mex Chicken Fajita Filling, warmed slightly in the microwave (Note:  All fajita filling is not created equal. My recipe is full of lightly-pounded chicken paillards, bell peppers,  onion, and, seasoned with my own fajita seasoning blend.)

1  cup spicy avocado crema, a 2-3 minute task to process mixture of 1 cup mashed, ripe Hass avocado (store-bought Wholly Guacamole may be substituted) with 6 tablespoons Mexican crema or sour cream, and, 1-2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce

1  cup Mexican crema or sour cream

6a0120a8551282970b0240a442d4f2200c 6a0120a8551282970b0240a4909106200b 6a0120a8551282970b0240a46bf15a200d 6a0120a8551282970b0240a46bf160200d~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 40-45 seconds.  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_1958 IMG_1958 IMG_1958 IMG_1958 IMG_1972~Step 2.  To assemble the nachos, line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with aluminum foil, then, place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom. Arrange chips across the bottom of pan, in a semi-single layer, allowing them to overlap and double-up occasionally.  Scatter about two-thirds (4 cups) of the shredded Monterey Jack cheese over the surface of the tortilla chips.  By teaspoonfuls, drop blotches of refried bean dip over the Jack cheese.  Scatter the chicken fajita mixture over the entire surface, followed by the remaining shredded cheese.

IMG_1978 IMG_1978 IMG_1978~Step 3.  To bake and garnish the nachos, place on center rack of 350º oven and bake until Jack cheese is melted and shows bubbly signs of light-browning, 6-7 minutes. Remove from oven.  Without hesitation decoratively drizzle with the avocado crema and Mexican crema or sour cream.  Serve ASAP.

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


A perfect ratio of chips & cheese-to-toppings?  You judge!

IMG_2026Nacho Mama's Sheet-Pan Chicken-Fajitas 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 box grater; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" sheet pan or 6, 8" oven-safe ceramic skillets; aluminum foil; parchment paper

6a0120a8551282970b0240a47f922d200cCook's Note: Nowadays, 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, etc. Simply pick one innocuous cheese with great melting qualities (Monterey Jack is my choice), then, season the protein accordingly and pick the toppings, meaning, stick to the flavor profile.  No one is surprised by fusion-food nachos -- they just can't wait to try 'em: ~ Nacho Mama's Buffalo Chicken Sheet-Pan Nachos ~

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)


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