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SALT LAKE CITY — I make food for a living. No, not at a restaurant but in my home kitchen, which is actually a tiny New York apartment kitchen on the top of a fifth-floor walkup (I don't need a gym).
I develop and create new recipes for magazines, food brands and cookbooks. I'm cooking all the time, and when I'm not cooking, I'm thinking about food, and what I'll be making next.
When I entertain at home I take a step away from the brain-work of major creativity and stick to things that are easy, crowd-pleasing and fun. For the Super Bowl, I'm making nachos with all the fixings. Along with some drinks and my chocolate chip cookies, I'm going to be totally set.
I make my Nachos For A Crowd in the oven. No melting cheese sauces and cleaning up drippy messes and no heating small batches of chips and cheese in the microwave. Depending on the party I'm having, I'll add beans or shredded meat, and I have sour cream, salsas and guacamole in bowls for people to add to their plates.
Make nachos for everyone at once by cooking them on a baking sheet. I line it with foil (for easy cleanup), and layer the goodness of chips, cheese and other tasty additions, then bake for about 10 minutes.
The cheese is key, and I like a variety. Mixing cheeses gives depth of flavor and texture. Some cheese melts silky smooth, some get a bit chewy and others are crumbly and salty delicious like Cotija.
My favorite is a Monterey Jack of course, and then you have his brother Pepper Jack to add spice. A little mild or sharp cheddar adds classic flavor and even pieces of Velveeta gives a silky melt on top of the crunchy chips. I love a good carnitas nacho (braised pork), shredded steak or chicken as well. Adding meat makes the nachos more substantial, closer to a meal, if you eat enough like I usually do.
Check my list below for any extras you can add and layer, layer, layer. It's an oven-nacho trick. One layer of chips, cheese, toppings, covered by another layer and sometimes even a third. The even heat from the oven melts all the cheese and heats everything perfectly. Serve with tongs so guests can grab an entire serving at once.
Nachos For A Crowd checklist:
Cheese Please — Monterey Jack is perfect for melting. Pepper Jack adds great spice. Crumble Cotija or other Mexican cheese on top when the nachos come out of the oven.
Layers of Good — Two or three layers of chips, cheeses and toppings are perfect in the even heat of the oven.
Meat the Merrier — Add braised pulled pork for carnitas nachos, or shredded chicken or beef for a more hearty snack.
Top That — Additions like canned beans, white onions, pickled jalapeños, fresh tomatoes and sweet peppers are added in layers with the cheese and cooked along with the chips.
It All Adds Up — Have bowls of these add-ons for guests to try on their servings: sour cream, cilantro, sliced scallions, olives, guacamole, salsa and hot sauce.
Nachos For A Crowd
By Tara Teaspoon
Crunchy chips with loads of toppings for hungry party-goers are easy to make when you do it in the oven.
Work time: 25 min
Cook time: 15 min
Total time: 40 min
2 11-oz bags tortilla chips
5 cups shredded cheese
1 can drained black beans
1 cup chopped white onion
1 cup pickled jalapeños
Toppings such as cilantro, scallions and olives
Serve with sour cream, guacamole and salsa
Heat oven to 350 F. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with foil. Arrange half of the chips on pans and top with some cheeses, beans, onion, and jalapeño. Repeat layers for two to three layers total. (These can be assembled up to one hour before baking.)
Working with one sheet at a time, bake until cheese is melted, 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro, scallions and olives if desired and serve with desired toppings. Heat a second pan as the first for fresh, hot nachos.
Tara is a Utah native who has been a food editor for Martha Stewart and Ladies' Home Journal. She contributes delicious recipes to websites and cookbooks from her home in New York City, and has appeared on the Today Show and Studio 5. Find more great ideas on TaraTeaspoon.com.