A heap of nachos piled high is arguably one of the greatest snacks for sharing, ideally done in a bar catching up with a good friend. Even with Lancaster County now in the “yellow” reopening phase, bellying up to a bar is still off limits, and it will likely be a while before shared plates are back on menus.
Although I don’t mind waiting to get a haircut, when it comes to the pleasure of nachos, I take matters into my own hands – and so can you.
Born in the 1940s by one Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya in Eagle Pass, Texas, this Tex-Mex snack was a simple and more refined combination crisped-up tortillas individually topped with melted cheese and maybe a pickled jalapeño for good measure. More often than not, the contemporary version is mammoth, like a cruise ship buffet, and often topped with various grilled or cured meats, cheese for days and a cloak of sour cream.
The point being, you can make nachos any way you like and chances are you’ll be smiling wide.
In the spirit of social distancing and nacho customization, I present the Nacho Bowl, a Plan B of the most delicious kind so that everyone in your household can create their very own nacho experience.
As pictured in the photo above, these nachos are cheese free, for no other reason than I forgot. At the end of the day, it does not matter – they still make a toe-tapping snack.
The work here is in whipping up a pan of refried beans, which takes just 20 minutes, and warming up the chips. Garnishes go into bowls and everyone can walk through the fixings bar.
Refried Bean Nacho Bowls
Makes about 6 servings.
- Two 15-ounce cans black beans, or 3 cups cooked
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ to 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 12 to 16 ounces tortilla chips
- ½ to 1 cup grated cotija, Jack or cheddar cheese
- Any or all of the following garnishes:
- 1 ripe avocado; ½ cup cilantro leaves, ½ cup cherry tomatoes, 8 radishes, thinly sliced; 6 scallions, thinly sliced; pickled jalapenos
Preheat the oven to 250 F.
Heat a 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium heat and add the oil, tilting the pan to coat. Add the onion, stir, and cook until soft and aromatic, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, salt and black pepper until the onions are well-coated, then add the black beans. Bring to a boil and begin to mash the beans, stirring frequently. Feel free to add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water or bean broth if the mixture is getting too dry.
The beans are ready when the mash resembles a thick paste, about 15 minutes. Cover and set aside until assembly. (This step can be done in advance and the beans can be gently reheated.)
Arrange the tortilla chips on a sheet pan and warm through in the oven, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover with cheese. Preheat the oven to the broiler setting.
Place the pan in the oven and cook until the cheese bubbles, about 1 minute. (But watch carefully!)
Measure out about ½ cup of refried beans for each bowl. With tongs, arrange cheese covered chips in each bowl and top with any of the suggested garnishes or something of your own invention.
Serve right away.