If there were a Hall of Fame for foods to eat while watching football, nachos would be among the first inductees.
Just in time for Super Bowl Sunday, we sought wisdom from chefs who work at restaurants across North Carolina known for their nachos.
These experts told us making nachos at home can be as easy or as labor intensive as the cook wants it to be.
An ambitious cook could braise shortribs, roast a pork shoulder or cook a pot of beans to top nachos. (Or even make homemade tortilla chips. Instructions can be found at goo.gl/TEbk4.) A cook who doesnt want the fuss could buy a pound of barbecue at a favorite restaurant for chopped or pulled pork-topped nachos and pick up the rest of the toppings at the grocery store, including salsa, guacamole and queso.
Our panel of nacho-making experts includes John Scarandella of The Raleigh Times Bar and Adam Harvey of Queen City Q, both renowned for pork barbecue nachos (Scarandellas staff makes up to 700 orders a week); Marty Heller of Charlottes Pacos Tacos and Tequila, known for Texas-style nachos; and Michael Casey of Raleighs Cantina 18, which serves a variety of nachos, most notably tortilla chips loaded with chunks of braised shortribs, goat cheese, black beans and roasted bell and poblano peppers. Here is their advice:
Preparing the chips
Scarandella prefers Mission brand tortilla chips, which are thicker and less salty than other brands. Since hes not frying the chips at home, as he would at the restaurant, Scarandella has an interesting trick for getting a similar flavor: sprinkling Molly McButter on the chips and baking them in a 400-degree oven for a few minutes to crisp the edges. For some reason, it has a just-came-out-of-the-fryer flavor, he said.
The cheese choice
Many chefs opt for shredded cheese, but chefs Casey and Harvey insist on queso, a spicy cheese sauce. Harvey says making queso is easier than you think. Its equal parts milk and shredded cheese melted in a slow cooker, double boiler or metal bowl perched over a pan of simmering water. Season with diced jalapenos and chopped tomatoes as desired.
A layered approach
All the chefs agreed with Harvey on this point: Nachos are all about layering. Nobody likes to get to the bottom and just have plain chips.
But they diverged on the best way to build them. Scarandella suggests a layer of chips, meat, cheese and then repeat. Harvey adds lettuce, cilantro and diced tomato to his second layer. When I eat nachos, I think its like taco salad, he says. Meanwhile, Heller insists on Texas-style nachos, where each individual nacho chip is dressed with toppings: refried beans, meat, cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo and a jalapeno slice.
A nacho bar
With all this advice, we like the idea of turning the Super Bowl smack talk into a delicious competition for your party guests.
Set out an array of toppings and let your guests compete to see who can make the best platter of nachos. Best part of all: The hosts work is done well before kickoff. The guests can assemble rimmed cookie sheets full of nachos for a quick broil in the oven and then everyone gets to enjoy wave upon wave of this game-day favorite.