Ultimate Nachos

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The past couple of weeks have been a bit crazy. I know I am a great student—I always turn in homework, I always go to class, and I work very hard. But the past few weeks have made me feel like a less-than-great student, as I am only able to get the bare minimum done on time. My mind keeps returning to the time when Harry was so overwhelmed by the amount of homework he had that he “cobbled something together on the proper handling of bowtruckles for Professor Grubbly-Plank” after working on his Potions essay. Well, that’s me. I’m cobbling.

I have been looking forward to this current weekend with immense anticipation, and not because it was Valentine’s Day yesterday. Not that I don’t like V-Day, but it was more to do with the fact that it is a four-day weekend for me—thank you all past and future American Presidents for the day off! Jonji and I celebrated the holiday (Valentine’s Day, not President’s Day) a couple weeks ago with a nice dinner in Downtown Venice, since it was DineLA week. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, DineLA is a week-long event in which many restaurants provide a set menu at a reasonable price. We chose to go to Chaya, a sort of Japanese-French-American fusion. Despite the potentially odd mix, the food was delicious. The olive and rosemary tapenade they served with warm bread was phenomenal, and the sashimi was like butter. Since it was Superbowl Sunday that day, the restaurant was relatively empty. The only other customer I could see was an older man, by himself, wearing a pony tail with two hair-ties. Jonji didn’t understand why I thought he was so cool, but, come on: two hair-ties in his ponytail AND eating by himself? Pretty dang cool. Near the end of our meal, we also saw a Groot (the tree figure from Guardians of the Galaxy) impersonator walking around outside the restaurant. A Groot on stilts, I might add. Overall, the evening was immensely enjoyable. Oh, and here’s yet another picture of Kitty.

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On real Valentine’s Day, we went to the gym in the morning and then went back home to start making brunch, as Todd and Jessica were coming over. While I made waffles, Jonji made bacon, and the Todd & Jess team made eggs. Breakfast was delicious, with plenty of butter, maple syrup, and whipped cream to throw on the waffles. We finished off the morning with a stroll over to the Venice Grind for iced coffee, given that LA has decided to start the summer season four months early. After we had returned home, Todd and Jessica left and Jonji and I spent the next few hours doing homework. The night ended with a bang, with a huge platter of nachos and two bottles of cider. On the whole, quite a wonderful day!

Jonji and I seem to have a collective craving for nachos. It all began a couple of years ago when we first ate the nachos at Planet Fresh in Santa Cruz. If you haven’t eaten them before, go there now. NOW. Ever since we moved to LA, we’ve searched in vain for a nacho plate as wonderful as Planet Fresh’s. Seeing as we haven’t yet found one, we decided to make our own last night. Make these nachos your own—feel free to add anything or skip any of the ingredients, especially the beans. Although, I must say, the beans are absolutely delicious and way better than ones bought at the store. Even Jonji loved them, and he hates on beans all the time.

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Ultimate Nachos
serves 3–4

1 bag tortilla chips
1 batch Spicy Pinto Beans (recipe below)
plenty of cheddar cheese
1–2 avocados, beaten with a fork to make guacamole
1 large chicken breast (about 1 lb), sliced down the middle depth-wise so as to have two thin breasts
sour cream
jalapeno peppers, chopped (optional)
salsa (optional)

Spicy Pinto Beans

2 cups dried pinto beans, soaked overnight and drained
6 cups water
1 bay leaf
3 fresh sage leaves
2 dried chiles de arbol (use 1 if you’re easily affected by spice)
1/2 cup hot water
1 3/4 tsp whole cumin seed
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
salt
8 small fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

For the beans: rinse the soaked beans and place in a medium pot. Add the water, bay leaf, and sage leaves, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 25 minutes, or until the beans are soft but not mushy.

While the beans are cooking, toast the cumin seed in a small pan over medium heat for a few minutes, until the seeds are slightly browned (watch closely—they burn fast!). Wait a couple minutes, then grind the seeds in a mortar and pestle until almost powdery and set aside. Boil water. Once it’s boiled, pour 1/2 cup over the dried chiles and soak for 20 minutes. Pour the chiles and the water in a blender and puree until you can see only specks of the chiles left.

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add 1 tbsp olive oil (use bacon fat if you have any). Add the onion, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp of the ground cumin to the pan and stir. Cook, stirring every now and then, for five minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the beans, the chile-water, the rest of the cumin, and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook over medium heat for 25 more minutes. Add the chopped fresh sage leaves at the very end.

For the nachos: place the chicken in a medium bowl and pour enough olive oil on top to coat each piece. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp salt and crack some pepper over the breasts and toss. Heat a medium pan over medium heat, pour a little olive oil in, then place the chicken in the pan. Cook for 3–5 minutes without moving. Flip, and cook another 3–5 minutes, this time with a lid on top of the pan. Set aside. Once the chicken is cool, shred or cut into small pieces.

Lay tortilla chips in an even layer on a sheet pan (one with a lip). Grate cheddar cheese over the top, so you have a pretty thick coating (depending on your love of cheese). Cook under the broiler for a few minutes, until melted (watch closely). Take the pan out of the oven and, using a slotted spoon, cover with a layer of beans. Next, sprinkle the chicken evenly over the chips. Grate a light layer of cheese over all of it and place under the broiler for another couple of minutes.

Once out of the oven, sprinkle (or glob) the desired amounts of sour cream and guacamole on top of the nachos. Serve with salsa and jalapeño peppers, if you like.

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