Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chicken Nachos

Nachos have fallen rather low on the nation’s culinary respect scale.   Now consumed mindlessly at movie theaters and bars while gazing off at a screen or spilled out of paper containers at a ball game, nachos were once a treat made with real ingredients like freshly grated cheese, fresh tortilla chips and a salad of toppings.

If this is a distant memory, try making your own for a fun lunch of light dinner.  Yes, they make appetizers that everyone loves too, but these are so good you may not get one so have your own private nacho fest.  These are light and healthy and easy enough to make every week. 

You can sift through a bag of chips for unbroken ones to make nachos, but making your own tortilla chips is easy and a good way to get a sense of portion size. We make baked tortilla chips from corn tortillas.  They taste like restaurant ones, warm and toasty.  The fact that they are cheap and it keeps bags of chips out of sight and out of mind are bonuses. 

Now that you know you are starting with a corn tortilla, figure out how many you’d normally eat if you were making tacos for lunch.   For me two is about right. Using a pizza cutter, cut each tortilla into 6 wedges.  Nachos for two uses 4 tortillas cut into 24 wedges.   (I won’t argue if you use three per person but try it with less than you think.  The complex carbohydrates and protein toppings are filling and satisfying.) 

Lay the wedges on a tin foil lined baking sheet and spray lightly with spray oil. Turn the wedges over and repeat with a light coating of oil.  (Hold the oil at least 10 inches from the chips to get a light even coating.)  Place the chips in a 450˚F oven for 6-7 minutes.  Turn chips over with tongs and continue to cook another 6-7 minutes.  Chips are ready when they begin to crisp and can be bitten into cleanly.  They will still be a little flexible in the center.   Now pile on the toppings:

1 cup cooked shredded chicken breast
1/4 cup sliced back olives
1 tablespoon pickled jalepeño slices
3 oz shredded cheddar cheese

Scoop a few teaspoons of chicken on each chip, top with olives slices and a jalepeño chip.  Give each nacho a thin layer of cheese.  Put the tray of nachos back in the oven (still at 450˚F) and cook until chicken is hot and cheese is melted. 

These are great plain or with a drop of hot sauce (we like Cholula) and chopped fresh cilantro.  Good balancers will enjoy a bit of salsa, sour cream (or Greek yogurt), shredded lettuce and a small slice of avocado. 

Vegetarian readers have already figured out that they can have plain cheese nachos or substitute rinsed canned black beans for the chicken.  Chicken nachos and bean-and-cheese nachos make a nice combo platter.