My first nacho was a simple little thing. Just a triangle tortilla chip (probably Doritos), covered with a square of cheddar cheese, topped with a pickled jalapeno slice from a jar, and broiled until the cheese was just melted.
That’s how my Dad made them back in the late ’60’s as a game day snack, and so that, to me, is a nacho. I was in college before I learned that ordering nachos in a restaurant meant something entirely different: a plate piled high with chips, covered with chili or pinto beans, topped with grated cheese and then melted under a broiler. The whole plate was then topped with diced tomatoes, sliced jalapenos (sometimes fresh, sometimes pickled) and perhaps a blob of sour cream and/or guacamole.
Nachos dropped off my radar screen sometime after college but made a blip about four years ago. My brother’s girlfriend at the time was a nacho mama, and once again, I was introduced to the nacho of my childhood, only this time, a fresh jalapeno replaced the pickled one. I was hooked again.
I order nachos frequently now, and recently, I think I may have tasted some of the best ones yet. A little barbecue joint in a little mountain town in the west offers up tri-tip nachos. What’s so special about these nachos? It could be the charred bits of medium-rare tri-tip steak, or the house made barbecue beans, or the perfect balance between all the ingredients (including enough cheese to reach all the chips, not just the ones on top).
If I’m going to make them at home, though, I’m going to go for simplicity — just the chip, the cheese and the fresh jalapeno slice (hey, it’s worth a little trouble). Nachos really are the perfect football-watching snack. If you have to watch football (and apparently I do in this household) then you might as well have a warm, spicy treat to make it a little more pleasant… (go Cowboys!)