Although they are not a traditional in Mexico, many people outside of that country still identify nachos as Mexican fare-- much like pizza is considered Italian food.
According to the frequently repeated story, nachos were invented in the 1940s by a man named Ignacio (note: the common nickname for a man of that name is Nacho) working at a restaurant in Piedras Negras, a Mexican city just over the border from Texas. When some regular customers arrived after closing time, Ignacio made a snack for them with what little he had left in the kitchen: fried corn tortilla pieces, cheese, and chopped jalapeño peppers.
The dish was a success with those diners and eventually caught on in the southwestern United States. Its popularity absolutely exploded when, in the 1970s, the cheese was replaced with a cheddar cheese sauce and nachos began selling at sports events.
After that, there was no looking back. Nachos became mainstream Mexican-American fare, and new versions are invented all the time. Nowadays we can choose from the “original” version of just tortilla chips, cheese, and chiles or enjoy additional elements such as guacamole, olives, chicken or meat. There are no hard and fast rules, so enjoy this crunchy, cheesy snack with any and all of your favorite toppings.
- 3 ounces / 85 grams fried or baked tortilla chips (about 2 large handfuls)
- 2/3 cup shredded cheese—cheddar, mozzarella, or any other variety that melts easily
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup guacamole or diced avocado
- 1/2 cup refried beans or whole black beans, drained of liquid
- 1 small tomato, seeded and diced
- 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
- Any additional toppings that you care to include, such as sliced olives (black or green), diced white or red onions, chopped jalapeno peppers, diced carne asada, cooked and shredded chicken or meat (such as carnitas)*
Turn your broiler on high to pre-heat.
Heat the beans in a small saucepan over low heat until bubbly. Remove from heat.
Set half of the chips in a single layer on an oven proof pie plate and cover with half of the shredded cheese. Carefully place the rest of the chips over this base layer and top them with the remaining cheese.
Place your pie plate under the broiler for about minutes until cheese is melted. Carefully remove the dish from broiler and drizzle the beans on top of the cheesy chips. Add any of the optional ingredients, if using, at this point.
Drop spoonfuls of guacamole over your nachos or sprinkle on the diced avocado. Add the sour cream in small dollops, and sprinkle on the diced tomatoes.
Serve your delicious nachos in the same baking pan in which they were heated. Each person will serve himself, pulling off the cheesy chips to eat with his hands.
*If you are using meat, freshly cooked is the best option. Otherwise, re-heat pre-cooked meat until piping hot. Add to the nachos right after the beans layer.
-Revised by Robin Grose