El Rey Nachos

Serves 8 to 10.

Note: Here, the flavored cheese sauce coats, but does not cool to a firm, congealed state, which makes it perfect for those who appreciate good nacho coverage and for those occasions where guests can build their individual portions. A sturdy corn tortilla chip is highly recommended; to make your own, see the notes below. The poblano peppers can be roasted, peeled and refrigerated a day or two in advance. The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days; reheat over medium-low heat or, for a party, in a slow cooker on the warm setting. Based on a recipe from Carmen Nuñez, chef at El Rey Taqueria and Mexican Beer Garden in D.C.

For the sauce:

• 1 1/2 lb. poblano peppers, roasted (see box at left; or substitute 4 jarred, roasted red peppers)

• 1 c. water

• 1 1/2 c. heavy cream

• 1 lb. American cheese

• Kosher salt, optional

For the nachos:

• 1 (25-oz.) pkg. 6-inch fresh corn tortillas, cut into quarters and fried (or substitute 1 lb. lightly salted corn tortilla chips; see box at left)

• 1 bunch green onions, chopped (white and light-green parts)

• 2 1/2 c. cooked black beans and/or cooked, chopped chicken or roasted pork

• Pickled onion slivers and/or pickled jalapeño slices (see box at left)

Directions

For the sauce: Combine the roasted peppers and water in a blender (not a food processor) on high speed, making sure not to include any seeds; purée until smooth. The yield is just under 2 cups.

Heat the heavy cream in a nonstick sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the cheese and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cheese has melted and the mixture is creamy. Reduce the heat to low to keep it warm.

Stir in the poblano purée; taste, and add salt as needed. (If the chips you’re using are salted, you may want to skip adding salt to the sauce.) The yield is about 4 cups.

To assemble the nachos, line individual wide, shallow bowls or baskets with wax paper or coated paper liners. Place 2 or 3 handfuls of chips in each one. Ladle the sauce over each portion of chips, then scatter equal amounts of the green onions, beans or cooked meat and the pickled onion on top. Serve right away.

Nutrition information per serving (using store-bought unsalted chips, no-salt-added black beans and 1/4 cup pickled jalapeño slices):

Calories 720 Fat 44 g Sodium 680 mg

Carbohydrates 60 g Saturated fat 20 g Total sugars 2 g

Protein 22 g Cholesterol 95 mg Dietary fiber 9 g

 

Hot-Cold Nacho Wreath

Serves 6 to 8.

Note: Some folks might look at this creation and dub it a queso dip, but we think the melted cheese layered on the chips and the nifty chorizo-cream cheese topping make this a smart, crowd-accessible way to serve nachos. Unless many hands will dig in immediately, we suggest mixing the shredded cheese at the center with sour cream; that will keep the melted cheese from congealing quite so fast or firmly. The chorizo-cream cheese topping can be made and refrigerated a day or two in advance. Adapted from “Buenos Nachos,” by Gina Hamadey.

• 2 or 3 medium hothouse tomatoes, diced

• 2 green onions, trimmed and cut into thin slices (white and light-green parts)

• Juice of 1/2 lime, plus wedges for serving

• Kosher salt

• 1 tbsp. vegetable oil

• 8 oz. fresh chorizo sausage links, casings removed

• 2 poblano chili peppers, roasted and cut into 1/4-in. dice (see box at left)

• 8 oz. regular or low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature (do not use nonfat)

• 10 oz. sturdy corn tortilla chips, preferably DIY (see box at left)

• 1 (8-oz.) block Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (2 c. total)

• 1 (8-oz.) block Colby or mild Cheddar cheese, shredded (2 c. total)

• 1 c. regular or low-fat sour cream, plus more as needed (do not use nonfat)

• 1 to 2 c. shredded iceberg lettuce, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Toss together the tomatoes, green onions, lime juice and a small pinch of salt in a medium bowl.

Line a bowl with paper towels. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the chorizo, in pinches; cook for 5 to 7 minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until the sausage is cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chorizo to the lined bowl.

Discard the paper towels from under the chorizo in the bowl; add the roasted, diced poblanos and cream cheese, stirring until well incorporated.

Arrange a layer of the tortilla chips in the shape of a wreath on the lined baking sheet, forming it as wide as possible. Scatter some of each cheese over the chips. Repeat to create 2 more layers of chips, and using about half the cheese, total.

Combine the remaining shredded cheeses and the cup of sour cream. Spoon the mixture into the center of the wreath.

Spoon the chorizo-cream cheese topping all the way around the inner edge of the wreath. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheeses have melted.

Scatter the tomato-green onion mixture and the lettuce (to taste) around the wreath. Spoon a dollop of sour cream at the center. Serve right away, with lime wedges.

Nutrition information per each serving of 8, using low-fat cream cheese, store-bought unsalted chips and low-fat sour cream):

Calories 600 Fat 40 g Sodium 730 mg

Carbohydrates 32 g Saturated fat 19 g Total sugars 5 g

Protein 24 g Cholesterol 90 mg Dietary fiber 3 g