Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Sudden Craving: Nachos with Homemade Queso!

Mexican food(or rather, Tex-Mex in most cases) always turns out either hit or miss with me. When prepared well and with good quality ingredients, I fall heels over head for it! But oftentimes, unfortunately, I walk away from Mexican restaurants with my plate half-empty because of exceptionally poor quality. Thus, I often like to prepare Mexican/Tex-Mex food myself at home, and I am always more than happy with the end result as I can control the quality of the ingredients and customize the taste to my liking, mostly with tons of flavorful spices such as roasted cumin and smoked paprika, which both lend that extra dimension that I find essential in Mexican cuisine.

It had been forever since I had tasted good nachos, or nachos at all for that matter, when I suddenly began to crave them. Quite random, actually, but I just had to have my fill of nachos, nonetheless. In the past, Ive just spread crushed tortilla chips with salsa, canned refried beans and shredded cheese, which I then microwaved, but I definitely wanted to elevate them up a notch this time around. So, I prepared my own refried black beans, which makes such a huge difference from using canned beans. I especially wanted to come up with a delicious homemade queso sauce.The first time, I made the queso sauce by first preparing a bechamel sauce with a flour-butter roux, and then whisking in pepperjack cheese to make it a mornay sauce. However, I was not entirely satisfied. So I tried it again, this time by mixing the pepper jack into a mixture of softened cream cheese and sour cream and baking the entire mixture in the oven until bubbling. It turned out to be exactly what I was looking for! Nice and thick, creamy, with the heat from the pepperjack and jalapenos, with the cheese flavor as the shining star. Serve the nachos as an appetizer or as a meal all-together, like I did! I will make only this recipe every time I feel like nachos from now on!
For the refried beans:
3 cans unsalted cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 of a large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. roasted cumin powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
salt to taste, about 1.5 tsp.
2 tbsp. oil
For the queso:
8 ounces neufchatel cheese, at room temperature
8 ounces pepperjack cheese, shredded
1 cup sour cream
3/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup hot jalapeno peppers

For the guacamole:
3 ripe avocados, cut into chunks
1.5 tbsp. lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
3 green onions, chopped
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste

Salsa of your choice(I used Whole Foods brand Roasted Chipotle Salsa)
Jalapeno peppers to top
Corn tortilla chips for serving

Preheat the oven to 350F. Combine all the ingredients for the queso in the food processor, and blend them until smooth. Transfer to a small baking dish, and bake in the heated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbling and golden brown on top.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a pan. Add the chopped onion, and cook on medium heat until the onions are transluscent and tender. Add the garlic, and cook for 1-2 minutes until the garlic just begins to brown. Add the roasted cumin powder, the paprika, and the cayenne pepper. Then, add in the black beans with enough water to cover them. Add the salt and pepper, and let the water come to a boil on high heat. Lower the heat once the water starts boiling, and let the mixture simmer until the water is nearly evaporated. At this point, begin to mash the beans until they reach the desired consistency. Taste for salt, and adjust as needed.

Place all the ingredients for the guacamole in a large bowl, and mix them together with a fork until combined. Mash if you prefer a creamy consistency.

To serve the nachos, divide tortilla chips among 5 individual plates. Cover the chips generously with salsa. Then, divide the refried beans among each plate of chips. Then, top with queso as desired(it is rich, so a little goes a long way). Finally, top each plate with a generous dollop of guacamole.

Yields 5 meal-sized servings

I unfortunately did not get to take a picture of the nachos on my second attempt because everyone was starving by the time I took the queso out of the oven, so Ive included a picture of the first attempt, with the bechamel-based queso sauce(which is why it looks runny).


Swathi said...

I too like tex-mex, this one looks delicious, thanks for recipe of refried beans, i need to try them.

Rachana said...

I love mexican food and this platter looks really really yumm!

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