Back in the 90s when I was a teenager, hot nachos with some kind of yellow queso ladled over the top were a very cool snack at malls, fairs, football games, and late night. (Or perhaps they still are and I just don’t get out much?) To be honest I was never a huge fan of those little paper boats of chips, but in college I enjoyed making an improved version that is still a great quick dinner in a pinch.
I hadn’t thought of doing it in many years, but it popped into my head a few months ago and I’m back to doing it occasionally. I always seem to have a bag of chips lying around, as well as cheese, salsa, a can of beans, and a red onion, so it’s a great quick pantry meal. You can really put whatever you have on hand into the mix, and the result is a combination of hot cheesy chips with cold salsa and other toppings that is really fun to eat! Some versions I’ve seen involve homemade cheese sauces and salsas, and that’s all great, but for me this is about improvising a dinner in 10 minutes using whatever is in the fridge.
The basic idea is that you put a bottom layer of chips, cheese and any protein onto a sheet pan which goes in the oven until hot and gooey, followed by salsa, avocado, and finely chopped onion. Easy peasy. This time I also added some of my very own candied peppers that I make at the end of every growing season to use up all the blazing hot peppers that do so well in my garden. I give quantities here because recipes demand it, but I mean really, I just made them up. You do you.
Funnily enough, as I was writing this post, I saw an article by the great Mexican food personality Pati Jinich about none other than nachos. She explains their history as a unique product of the borderland, (Mexican/American border) originally made simply with corn chips, Colby cheese and pickled jalapeño. You can check out that article in the NYTimes. Next time I plan to try that combo to experience the original!
Sheet pan nacho dinner
- 1/2 bag of your favorite corn chips
- 1 cup of black beans (well drained if canned), diced cooked chicken or beef, cooked baby shrimp, or chili
- 1 cup shredded cheese of your choice or queso
- 3/4 cup your favorite salsa
- 1/2 cup diced red onion or sliced green onion
- Other toppings : sliced pickled jalapeño peppers, olives, avocado
- 1/2 tsp southwest seasoning
On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, distribute the corn chips. Next top with protein of your choice or chili if using. Next add cheese and sprinkle with seasoning.
Bake at 350 until melted and hot, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate and top generously with salsa, chopped avocado, sliced green onion or chopped red onion and/or sliced olives. Dig in!