Two things make the ultimate nacho plate: the chips and the cheese. (duh!)
First Tip: Make the Chips Yourself!
In my opinion the one thing that really sets a decent plate of nachos apart from an amazing plate of nachos is the chips. I’ve just never found a store bought chip that has the strength and thickness that I need to pile high with toppings. Which means that whenever possible, I make my own for nachos.
Buy normal corn tortillas and cut them into sixths. In a cast iron skillet or some other sturdy pan, heat some canola, vegetable, or peanut oil to about 325 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, toss in a bit of tortilla every minute or two. It should start bubbling right away and float to the top.
Toss in 12 tortillas at a time. You don’t want to crowd them. I timed mine and they took almost exactly 4 minutes to cook. I flipped them over half way through. You’ll know when they are done because they won’t be bubbling anymore. That means all the moisture is out of the chips which will leave you with a perfectly crisp chip.
Let them drain on a paper towel and toss them with some Kosher salt.
Ok. So here is where the obsessive part kicks in for me. One thing I hate is to have a plate of nachos where half the chips have toppings and half the chips have nothing. Some are really crisp and some are soggy. I like every chip to be crispy and topped! Is that too much to ask? So I top all of them individually. I’m telling you. Once you take the time (like 5 minutes) to make nachos like this, you’ll never go back to the pile method again.
You can a bit less careful with the cheese. Just make sure each chip has a bit of both kinds. Some people may think this is crazy to top each chip individually, but really you are only talking about a few dozen chips. It doesn’t take as long as you might think. and being anal retentive causes portion control – so it’s a win-win!
Step II: Viva La Difference! – Try Different kinds of cheeses
I used two types of cheese for these guys. Cotija cheese which doesn’t really melt and is kind of salty but light. Similar to feta but a bit more mild. I also threw in some grated cheddar for meltiness. And yes, I know this violates the no seafood with cheese rule, but whatever.
Another way this recipe differs from your average is that I use a pineapple salsa on top. One thing I messed up on with this salsa is that I didn’t quite take my time chopping the pineapple. The pieces were a bit too big compared to the peppers and jalapenos. Basically though, just chop up everything and add your orange juice and lime with a good pinch of salt. You can easily make this and the chips a day or two in advance.
- 12 corn small corn tortillas cut into 6. 72 chips if you aren’t math inclined.
- Vegetable oil for cooking the chips
- 2/3 pound catfish filets – finely diced
- 4 tablespoons “essence” (see recipe below)
- 1 avocado
- 2 Tablespoons greek yogurt or sour cream
- 1/2 pineapple, diced. Probably about 2-3 cups
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 3 jalapenos
- 1 lime, juice only
- 1/4 Cup orange juice
- Kosher salt for basically every part of this
- Cayenne pepper (optional)
- 4 tablespoons limejuice (approx.)
- Dice the catfish – and toss in the ‘essence’ – and squeeze the juice of one lime and stir again. Crank some fresh ground salt and pepper and set aside.
- Cut corn tortillas into sixths.
- In a cast iron skillet or some other sturdy pan, heat some canola, vegetable, or peanut oil to about 350 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, toss in a bit of tortilla every minute or two. It should start bubbling right away and float to the top.
- Toss in 12 tortilla chips at a time. Cook for 4 minutes to cook, flipping halfway through.
- Let them drain on a paper towel and toss them with some Kosher salt.
- Toss catfish in a nonstick pan with a Tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and the lime juice and let it cook on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes or so. Don’t overcook it – catfish will come apart and be mush if you do. and that is not quite the desired consistency we’re going for.
- Mix avocado with a bit of yogurt or sour cream and a pinch of salt.
- Grate the cheddar cheese.
- Chop up salsa ingredients and add orange juice and lime with a good pinch of salt.
- Top each chip individually and add a pinch of salt and tiny pinch of cayenne to each nacho.
- Bake at 350 for only about 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and everything is hot.
- Pile them on a plate and serve them with the salsa!
- 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly.