Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
10:57 am
Wed May 21, 2014

Nachos


 My dentist, Gabriela, is from Mexico. She is a pretty woman with a world view that is equal parts sarcastic and pacific a winning combination in my book. She also loves all things food and cooking related I am convinced that many folks in the medical profession are the most avid in these. Perhaps this stems from a keen sense of physiology and nature in general. Whatever the reason when I am in her chair we talk food. Our conversation begins nearly immediately as to what or where each of us has eaten or shopped at lately. We don’t waste a lot of time with what we didn’t like. Our routine is more about helping one another find the best of South Florida. She is a pescatarian by the way who admits to allowing just the smallest amount of bacon “or chorizo!” in her food. I love that inconsistency in her. She justifies it by telling me that is where the “umami flavors” are kept. I am down with that Omnivore that I am!

A plate of crispy nachos topped with jalapeños, sour cream, and guacamole.
A plate of crispy nachos.
Credit Norman Van Aken

After the pain killers set in and she and her nurse get to drilling and such the conversation becomes nearly one-sided and my responses become comically garbled. Soon  I am left with only a grunt or head shakes  up and down or side to side. I wonder if she gets a kick out of this? After we were done on my very first visit she told me of her favorite Mexican restaurant in the area. Now we go there routinely after the drill sessions I have come to realize how much texture plays into Mexican cookery after these visits. And what I order can be affected on whether the hour with my dentist was rough or not bad at all! It was a gentle visit my last time and so I took the window of opportunity and had the ‘Crispy Nachos’.

They came topped with the traditional things and while they were good I immediately began to think how I would have made them a bit differently Gabriela would be perplexed by my digressions on various classic Mexican dishes and the long traditions many are prized for. But Nachos don’t actually fall into that camp.

The fact is they haven’t been around that long. Even though millions are served weekly from Amsterdam to Brazil the first “nachos” ever served were done so in the Mexican border town of Peidras Negras just over the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. It was there that the chef of the old “Victory Club”, one Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya created the first version of Nachos in 1943 to some ladies who were on a shopping trip in town. His were made with corn chips, jalapeños and shredded cheddar cheese melted over the top it was an era before the “Fully Loaded Nachos” were born. Now-a-days we are offered nachos with black beans, chili, chorizo, guacamole, sour cream, olives, chopped tomatoes and even more. In Memphis you can get nachos with barbeque. In my third cookbook, “New World Cuisine” I offer a version topped with chicken I marinated in mojo and roasted that has its admirers. Though I know my dentist Gabriela will not have it with chicken.

Soon I will be back and talking food with her. And afterward I know I will be hungry.

I just hope I won’t be opting for a soft tamale I hope I am cleared for some crunchy, crispy Nachos!

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RECIPE FOR NACHOS

For centuries, the Yucatan Peninsula has been a cultural bridge between Mexico and Cuba, and this also means the fortunate blending of ingredients and cooking traditions as exemplified in these special nachos. You don’t see nachos in many of the books on Mexican cookery. The fact is they haven’t been around that long. Even though millions are probably served weekly the first “nachos” ever served were done so in the Tex-Mex border town of Peidras Negras. It was there that the chef of the old “Victory Club”, one Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya created the first version of Nachos in 1943 to some ladies who were on a shopping trip in town.

  • 6 ounces lightly salted corn tortilla chips
  • ½ Cup cooked black beans
  • ½ Cup cooked, crumbled Chorizo Sausage
  • 2 Tablespoons diced roasted poblano peppers
  • 1 ½ Cups grated Pepper Jack cheese, grated
  • 1 Cup queso blanco, grated
  • ½ Cup diced avocado dressed in lime juice, reserved
  • 1 Tablespoon minced cilantro
  • 1 small tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • ¼ Cup sour cream
  • Pickled Jalapeños, (store bought)

Preheat the oven to 350 º.

Spread the tortilla chips across the surface of an ovenproof casserole dish or serving platter. Scatter the black beans, chorizo, poblano then the cheeses, over the chips. Place the dish in the oven for about 10 minutes, until heated through and the cheese is completely melted.

To serve, top with the avocado, cilantro, tomato, sour cream and pickled jalapeños.

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