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VIEWS | FRONT BURNER: Arkansas Democrat Gazette: Cookbook offers nachos with intriguing variations


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    February 16, 2022 at 2:21 a.m.

    Street Corn Nachos (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

    I'm all for nachos for dinner, both the concept and the book, "Nachos for Dinner: Surprising Sheet Pan Meals the Whole Family Will Love" by food blogger Dan Whalen (Workman, $22.95).

    The book, released last month, is just over 150 pages, but it packs in the recipes and inspiration. Recipes range from the familiar (Southwestern Chicken Nachos) to the unexpected (Scallion Pancake Nachos) to the say what?! (Biscuits and Gravy Nachos).

    The "Nacho School: Building Blocks" chapter covers all the essentials: chips, cheese sauce (real and vegan), salsas, hot sauce, slaws, pickles, guacamoles (yep, plural), crema, beans, vegetables and proteins. You can mix-and-match these recipes for your own creations or use them in Whalen's recipes. Whalen also gives prepared and store-bought options, so there's no pressure to make everything from scratch. Vegetarians and vegans will be pleased to find several options, as well as advice for which plant-based alternatives work best in various recipes.

      photo  "Nachos for Dinner: Surprising Sheet Pan Meals the Whole Family Will Love" by Dan Whalen (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)  I had a hard time narrowing down which recipes to try first. Did I want classic nachos (chips, two cheeses, beef, pico, guacamole and sour cream) or something more unusual like French Onion Soupchos (tortilla chips, caramelized onions, gruyere and croutons) or did I want to venture out on my own using Whalen's building blocks (crispy cod, jicama slaw, cotija cheese, mango salsa and lime crema)?

    If those all sound too complicated or time consuming, there's always Trashy Microwave Nachos — the quintessential combination of tortilla chips, shredded cheese and pickled jalapenos zapped in the microwave until melty and then topped with jarred salsa.

    I eventually settled on Street Corn Nachos. The combination of sweet corn, tangy cheese and zippy crema was filling, yet fresh even with frozen corn. I would have liked a bit more cheese, but I want everything to have more cheese so don't read that as criticism.

    Street Corn Nachos

    • 3 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 cup Power Crema (recipe follows)
    • 1 (12-ounce) bag tortilla chips
    • 2 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided use
    • ½ cup crumbled cotija, divided use (see note)
    • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
    • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
    • Lime wedges, for serving

    Heat broiler to low with a rack about 4 inches from the heat.

    Place the corn on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat. Broil until the corn is slightly charred, 3 to 5 minutes (frozen corn will take longer). Remove from oven (leave broiler on) and let cool for 2 minutes.

    Transfer the corn to a bowl and stir in ¼ cup of the Power Crema; set aside.

    Wipe the baking sheet clean and then arrange the tortilla chips in a single layer, overlapping as little as possible, on the baking sheet. Top with half of the cheddar and half of the cotija cheeses. Add the corn, distributing it evenly, and then top with the remaining cheeses.

    Broil on low until the cheddar has melted (the cotija will not melt) and the chips are starting to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Top nachos with the remaining crema, followed by the paprika and cilantro. Serve hot with the lime wedges on the side.

    Makes 4 dinner servings or 8 appetizer servings.

    Note: I couldn't find cotija at my grocery store so I used feta. It has a similar creamy, salty profile.

    ■  ■  ■

    Power Crema

    • 1 cup sour cream
    • ¼ cup mayonnaise
    • Juice of 1 lime
    • Juice of 1 lemon
    • Pinch salt

    Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until blended. Transfer to a squeeze bottle; leftover crema will keep refrigerated for up to 4 days.

    Makes about 1 ¼ cups.

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