Sunday, November 3, 2013

Chicken Nachos Blanco with Tomatillo Salsa

While I am a fan of authentic Mexican cuisine, particularly Oaxacan, I also indulge in foods that many Mexicans wouldn't even recognize. Nachos are a prime example. Rick Bayless has provided me with an ample supply of genuine recipes that combine cheese, tortillas, and salsa, but sometimes a Friday night just calls for some homemade bar snacks.

My winter CSA starts on Wednesday, so I've been steadily working through all the spoils of my summer garden that I've preserved in my freezer in order to make room for the bounty of the new season. My tomatillo plants were more than generous this year and though I've turned all my tomatillo sauces into chilaquiles and smothered burritos, I decided to make a little more room by digging into my cache of tomatillo salsas. Because nachos already lack authenticity, anything goes in terms of toppings, but sometimes you can't beat a simple combination of salsa, cheese, and chips, especially when made better with homemade and high-quality ingredients. Using a cheese sauce ensures that the maximum amount of surface area is coated with dairy goodness, and the spicy tomatillo salsa is just the right accent to cut through the richness. Layering the ingredients packs every bite with salsa, cheese, and chicken, and giving the finished dish a quick toast in the oven melds every flavor together.

It may take a little longer than melting some salsa and Velveeta together, but it's exactly the reward you deserve after a long day. And don't forget to whip up a fresh margarita while the nachos are in the oven.

Chicken Nachos Blanco with Tomatillo Salsa
serves 1

1/2 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1/2 tablespoon flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup milk
2 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 ounces tortilla chips
1/2 cup shredded or chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup tomatillo salsa

1. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and a pinch each of salt and pepper and saute until the onions are tender, just a couple of minutes. Add the flour, stir to form a paste, and cook until any foaming stops, the raw flour flavor is gone, but the roux is not brown, about 2 minutes. Add milk, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook over low to medium-low heat until the mixture is thick, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add cheese, stir until melted and keep warm.

2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place half the chips on an oven-safe dish and top with half of the cheese sauce, chicken, and salsa. Repeat layers with remaining ingredients. Bake until all ingredients are warmed through and cheese sauce is beginning to bubble, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and serve promptly.

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