When The Chips Are Down
I’ve just been informed by my daughter that I’m a lousy nachos maker. “Your chips are too soggy, mom,” she said last night, after I served a platter of this mounded corn chip-melted-cheese-salsa-bean concoction to her and some friends who were occupying our dining room for their common cause—homework.
I was wounded. Can it be that I—a former pastry chef and 25-year veteran food writer, recipe developer, and consummate dinner party giver—can’t make a decent plate of nachos?! This is amateur food, after all! Any teenager with a microwave can throw this %^@ Superbowl stuff together.
After my kitchen arrogance cooled down a bit however, I looked at my platter of limp corn chips—poor vehicles for melted cheese and jalapenos—and thought, “She’s right.” Of course you don’t make good nachos, Elaine, ‘cause you never eat them. I’ve seen them around plenty, but nachos are not something I’ve ever made for myself or ordered in a restaurant. I like the components, but the dish itself is really for nibbling/snacking. I’m not much of a snacker. I grew up on three square meals a day and that’s pretty much how I eat. (And I’m not someone people invite to Superbowl parties; I ask too many questions. Like, “What, pray tell, is a down?”)
When I put together the nacho platter for my daughter and friends, I was going on a vague sense that you pile everything together and put it in the oven to melt the cheese. Which, I’ve learned after doing a bit of nacho research, is basically true. Except for one crucial thing: Add the salsa after baking or serve it on the side. I had layered the salsa with the chips, cheese, and beans—like some sort of Tex-Mex lasagna. But that’s what made my dish mushy instead of crunchy.
So for next time, I’ve got it down.
My kind of down, that is.