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Friday, February 4, 2011

Chicken Nachos

Chicken Fest continues with Chicken Nachos...perhaps in honor of Superbowl Sunday and all the game day party spreads out there. (It is this weekend...right?)

Leftover chicken and some other basics inspire nacho night
Typically, nachos are a cinch for me to pull together because I tend to have the basics on hand. (At least this used to be typical. Now that we're on the Husband's money diet, I'm planning meals in advance like a school cafeteria, buying only what I need week to week, which means my pantry is no longer as well stocked as it used to be!)

Nachos are a great way to use some leftover ingredients, like the chicken (roasting of which was outlined in a previous post), some shredded cheese, and a can of black beans. If I am planning ahead for a nacho night, I will also pick up a can of refried beans, some Roma tomatoes (which aren't as seedy as other tomatoes), and an avocado or two. (Price permitting, of course. At this point in the winter one avocado costs almost $2, which is a little too steep for me!) 

A quick note on avocados: the Husband got me hooked on them back in our vegetarian days....I don't think  I ever ate them growing up. He and I love, love, love them (!!!) on sandwiches and mashed or diced on nachos, tacos, quesadillas, etc. (Yum!) Meanwhile, the Bear could take or leave this strange green fruit. When she was just starting solid foods, I discovered the magical joy of mashed avocados mixed with pear baby food. Yes, I tasted it (I tasted all the baby food...Had to), and it was super delicious...the Bear just spit it out and refused to take any additional bites. (Oh well, more for Mommy!) 

Speaking of our vegetarian days, nachos are perfect for mixed crowds because diners can choose whether or not to add the meat.  This is why I often include both refried beans and black fill out the meal a little for the vegetarians at the table (although I'm sure the meat eaters benefit as well!).

Before I go on, I should probably list what I consider the bare bones ingredients for chicken nachos:
  • Tortilla Chips
  • Cooked Chicken, shredded or diced (shake a little cumin on it if you'd like)
  • Beans (refried and/or just plain beans. We prefer black beans)
  • Shredded Cheese (like cheddar, monterey jack, or a blend)
  • Tomato (in the form of diced tomatoes, salsa, taco sauce, some, or all of thee above! Salsa verde is also a very viable option.)
Some other fun ingredients that we like to include on nacho night:
  • Minced Onions 
  • Avocados
  • Red Bell Peppers (I prefer it diced and either sauteed or roasted, but raw will work as long as it is a finer chop)
  • Black Olives (I add these, but the Husband does not! My love of black olives stems from my dairy free days nursing a Baby Bear who presumably suffered from a dairy allergy that she has since outgrown. Olives were one ingredient that compensated, somewhat, for the lack of cheese in a Mexican dish. The flavor must have passed through the milk, because today, unlike her father, the Bear loves olives!)
A few other ingredient options, that we rarely include, but are still worth a mention:
  • Zucchini (diced, and either sauteed or roasted) 
  • Corn (frozen corn heated in the microwave)
  • Sour Cream (delicious, but rarely makes it into my shopping cart these days in an effort to cut calories and save money)

Frontera Roasted Tomato Taco Sauce, 8-Ounce (Pack of 6)Finally, let's talk taco sauce, which is not pictured above but should be because it is my absolute favorite ingredient on nacho night. For years I relied on salsa alone, but then I was eating tacos at a friend's house when I rediscovered mild Ortega and fell in love. Interestingly, Ortega has some chemical ingredient in it that forced me to bar it from our pantry. (I cannot remember exactly what it is, as I do not have a bottle handy to consult, but I will find out and get back to you).  I have scoured the Internet for a DIY taco sauce recipe with no luck. About a year ago I discovered Frontera's Roasted Tomato Taco Sauce at my local Whole Foods, which has such a tangy, rich flavor...I can see now that Ortega was just puppy love...but Frontera is the real thing.

The beauty of nacho night is that it is so easy to have everything chopped and ready hours in advance. (You could even do this the night before). Before dinner, I get everything out, nuke the chicken and beans, and then let diners assemble their own plate of nachos. It is also fun to put the chips, chicken, beans, and cheese on an ovenproof plate (think Fiestaware) and broil until the cheese is melted. This step is not necessary, but gives the tortilla chips a roasted corn taste that I love.

Our plates are probably never as fancy as the picture below, but I wanted it fancy for you!


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