Several of the recipes in today’s Tri-County Sunday have a south of the border flair to them – from corn queso dip to tacos to adding chilies to burgers. While I’m not a lover of really spicy food, tacos and nachos are definite favorites. I think in some weird way they connect with long ago memories of company visiting and Mom serving crackers and cheese tray or a crackers, cheese and pepperoni tray. While it’s not the same as nachos or tacos, there is the commonality of meat, cheese and a carbohydrate with a crunch – be it a cracker or a taco shell or tortilla chips.
Decades ago the Courier Express sent myself and another employee to Wichita, Kan., for a weeklong training on a newspaper layout program called QuarkXPress. While there, we were taken to lunch each day at a different restaurant. While I no longer remember the name of the Mexican restaurant we went to, I do still remember that up to that time I had never had a simple taco that tasted so good. The tortillas were homemade – light and airy with a crunch – not the heavier corn tortillas we are all most familiar with.
Quite a few years after that, Mom, Dad and I pack up the RV we had at the time and traveled to Texas to visit my brother Brian, who was living in Brownfield at the time. While there he made nachos for dinner one night. His version was more of a nachos grande grande. It had lots of beef, refried beans and cheese on top of the chips as the baking tray was placed in the oven. About 10-15 minutes later the tray was removed from the oven and we could take a portion of the nachos and top it with lettuce, tomatoes, salsa and sour cream.
To this day I still make nachos this way for Dad and I. We usually have some leftover to heat up as a snack later in the week. Although I’ve tweaked it a little bit over the years. Now I not only add taco seasoning to the ground beef but I also add some to the refried beans to give them a little kick. There are times I may even mix the two – ground beef mixture and refried bean mixture – together before putting the combined topping across the tortilla chips.
We’ve found it to be a quick meal with lots of flavor.
1 large bag of tortilla chips (I try to find a brand that is not too salty)
1.5 to 2 lb. lean ground beef
2-3 pkgs. Taco seasoning
1 can refried beans
2-3 cups cheese –Mexican blend, taco seasoned
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place the entire bag of tortilla chips on a cookie sheet. Spread them out so that the bottom of the sheet is covered. I will often cover the cookie sheet in aluminum foil first. Then set aside.
Crumble up the ground beef in a large skillet (frying pan) to brown on medium heat. I usually cover with a glass lid to increase the speed at which the beef will cook while still being able to watch it. If there are not a lot of drippings from the ground beef, do not drain. If there is a lot you will need to drain the pan so you don’t have too much liquid after adding the needed water.
Once ground beef is drained (if needed) return to medium heat and sprinkle one full packet of taco season and half of the second packet across the beef if you used 1.5 lb. of beef. Use two packets of seasoning if you used 2 lb. of beef. Add 2/3 cup of water for 1.5 lb. meat and 1 cup of water to 2 lb. meat. Stir well and once mixture begins to bubble up, turn heat down to medium low and let simmer. It will thicken up. DO NOT COVER.
While the beef is simmering, open the can of refried beans and place in a small saucepan with a little water. Just enough so that as you stir it is smooth for the most part. Add in either the 1/2 packet of seasoning or a full packet of seasoning, depending on how flavorful you want the beans to be. Let beans simmer on low heat setting so that they warm up. Stir occasionally to make sure beans do not burn.
Once the seasoned meat mixture has thickened, spoon over the tortilla chips on the cookie sheet. Next do a last stir on the refried beans mixture and begin spooning that over the meat mixture.
Now add the cheese you’ve chosen (Mexican blend or taco seasoned or a little of both). Just sprinkle it across the tortilla chips, making sure to get those chips close to the edges also. Once you have as much cheese as you’d like on your nachos, simply put the cookie sheet into the oven, rack in the middle, and allow cheese to melt and chips to crisp. It takes 10-15 minutes usually.
During those 10-15 minutes, I usually take a tomato and dice it into small squares. I have begun purchasing bags of shredded lettuce that are marked with a date so I know they are fresh. This saves me from having to tale the time to shred lettuce. I place the lettuce and tomatoes in separate bowls.
Once out of the oven I use a large spatula to cut large square pieces. Place a square on a serving plate and add what toppings you like – shredded lettuce, tomatoes, salsa and sour cream.
It’s a quick, yet tasty meal for those nights you may be in a rush or simply want something a little different.