First, a very brief history of our favorite game-day snack: Nachos date back to 1943, when some American patrons happened into a closed (and/or chef-less) restaurant in Piedras Negras, Mexico. Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya, the man on hand, kindly whipped together something with what little he had left in the kitchen. He called the dish "Nacho's especiales." These original nachos were simple but delicious—little more than tortillas cut up and fried into chips, and topped with cheese and jalapeños.
Since that fateful day in Piedras Negras, the nacho ingredient list has grown substantially. Now you’ve got everything from cheese and jalapeños to beans, guacamole, and sour cream—plus various meats. Even shrimp and artichoke hearts are fair game. When it comes to choosing your toppings, we say take your inspiration from Mr. Anaya himself: Let your fridge be your guide. Feta and broccoli from last night's dinner? Sure! Nachos are a great opportunity to use leftovers. No matter what you choose to pile on, follow this no-fail baseline recipe:
Step 1: Layer a 9 in x 13 in baking dish with chips.
Remember: Use quality corn chips. You can fry or bake them yourself with corn tortillas and just a bit of oil and seasoning, or pick up a bag of your favorites at the store. Whatever you choose, you want them to be crunchy and sturdy under the weight of your toppings.
Step 2: Top the chips with cheese.
It's hard for quality cheese to maintain a gooey consistency. However, our saviors over at seriouseats.com seem to have it figured out. The secret? Evaporated milk. If you use shredded cheese instead, sprinkle evenly and generously over the dish.
Step 3: Add meat—if you're into that.
Sauté ground beef, bacon or sausage separately until it's nearly done. Then drain the grease completely to ensure the leanest, cleanest addition to your plate.
Step 4: Pile on more toppings.
Step 5: Add more cheese.
After all, these nachos have to earn their “ultimatene” status.
Step 6: Bake the whole shebang.
If you used shredded cheese, pop the tray in the oven at 450F for about 10 minutes, or until melted through. If you use the evaporated milk cheese recipe, there's no need to bake—it's already warm and gooey.
Step 7: Serve.
Make sure to provide some napkins.