Paul Mercurio's Nachos Extraordinaire
Some say love is in the air (how many times have I heard that?) but I say spring is in the air. Only by a bit, but the sun does seem a little warmer and that icy wind now has some dulcet tones which encourages one to clean up the backyard and get the barbie ready for party central.
Okay, so you may still be wearing a light vest whilst out the back but I am sure your thoughts, like mine, are turning to slightly lighter styles of beer after winter’s reign of stouts and porters. Food-wise it is a little too early for seafood salad, jelly shots and pilsner – it’s more like good old pale ale or perhaps an amber or hefeweizen and something hearty but with a lighter side.
That said, dammit! Go for a pils, celebrate the arrival of spring and with it I say have some nacho. Not just any nachos though, you deserve my Nachos Extraodinaire for a perfect early Spring afternoon lunch.
Back in the old days when I was a student at the Australian Ballet School I used to work at the local Mexican fast-food restaurant and the trick to good nachos, I discovered, was to set the corn chips in the beans so they stood up like cathedrals, allowing the toppings to fall in between and give you a lovely taste surprise with each mouthful.
Let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than flat, soggy nachos with all the cheese on top and nothing underneath! So take the time to make corn chip cathedrals and people will think you’re a genius!
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 fresh jalapeño chilli, finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Mexican chilli powder
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
150 g (5½ oz) minced (ground) pork
150 g (5½ oz) lean minced (ground) beef
2 tablespoons store-bought black bean and chipotle salsa
2 tablespoons store-bought roasted tomatillo salsa
6 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeño chillies
salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ tin (220 g/7¾ oz) Mexican refried beans
1 tin (420 g/15 oz) Mexican pinto beans or kidney beans
1 large packet good quality plain or lightly salted corn chips
150 g (5½ oz/1½ cups) grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
1 large avocado, roughly mashed
125 g (4½ oz/½ cup) sour cream
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) (fan-forced 180°/350°F).
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium–high heat. Add the onion and fresh jalapeño and cook until the onion is translucent, then add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the cumin, Mexican chilli powder and paprika, and fry until fragrant and well combined with the onion.
Increase the heat to high and add the pork and beef. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat and mix well, then continue to cook until the meat is evenly browned. Next, add the tomato, chipotle salsa, tomatillo salsa and 2 tablespoons of the chopped jalapeños, reduce the heat to medium and cook forseveral minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as required. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
Spread the refried beans over the bottom of an ovenproof casserole dish, about 1 cm (½ in) thick. Spread about a third of the pinto beans on top of the refried beans, then place your corn chips, upright, into the bean mix (yes, I do it one by one—you may think I’m mad—but the results are worth it!). Sprinkle the rest of the Mexican beans over the top, followed by 2 tablespoons of the chopped jalapeños, then the meat mixture—making sure it falls down the crevices. Sprinkle the remaining chopped jalapeños over the meat, then sprinkle over the grated cheese. Put the dish in the oven and bake until the cheese has melted and begins to colour. Put the mashed avocado over one side of the nachos and the sour cream on the other and dig in.