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These Well-Crafted Chile-Chicken Nachos Take Every Component Seriously

There are impulse nachos—do I have chips? Do I have cheese?—and then there are Super Bowl nachos. Beautiful, loaded-up, fancy nachos with elaborate toppings, thoughtful construction, nay, architecture, and fresh cilantro sprigs dispersed just so. Just so… you can dive bomb into it with your greedy fingers.

When nacho expert Rick Martinez was assigned to develop a recipe that excels in every category (the stakes were high—it’s nachos), he delivered. And yes, he was wearing his signature Lucha Libre apron while doing so.

The Chile-Chicken Topping

The nachos hinge on this chile-chicken recipe that you can steal and use for tacos, burritos, rice bowls, salads, whatever. A maxed-out chile sauce (ancho and chipotle in adobo) that the shredded rotisserie chicken soaks up, transforming into something that Kroger rotisserie oven never saw comin’. Hot, sweet, and smoky chicken that stays juicy thanks to chicken stock, especially since it’s going into the oven next. It takes 30 minutes to make the chile chicken, which you can do ahead, FYI.

chicken nachos 2

Photo by Chelsie Craig, Food Styling by Kate Buckens

The chicken, ready for nachos (or whatever!).

The Cheesy Corn Topping

This is the sneaky best part. A corn salad with salty-crumbly cotija cheese, onion, and a poblano chile (or jalapeño). It brings a pop of sweet and acts as a sort of unexpected salsa that isn’t wet, and therefore won’t sog up your chips. Since it’s not corn season, you have Rick’s permission to use frozen corn, thawed and drained. Thanks, Rick!

chicken nachos

Photo by Chelsie Craig, Food Styling by Kate Buckens

The Construction Manual

This is a two-layer, two-sheet tray operation, as opposed to one tray of 50 layers. It’s easier to eat than the nacho mountain, and you can delay cooking so the second one goes in after the first tray is inhaled, ensuring “a hot, melty batch” right when you want it, which is the most sensual recipe instruction I’ve ever read. Riiiiick! You can assemble about an hour ahead and wrap the trays in Cling Wrap to really make sure you’ve concentrated all of your creative energy into the nachos before you. Now here’s the order you SHALL NOT STRAY FROM:

  1. Sturdy tortilla chips
  2. Chile chicken
  3. Corn salsa
  4. Shredded sharp cheddar
  5. Repeat
  6. After baking, fresh toppings like radishes, cilantro, pickled jalapeños, more cotija cheese

The cheddar (sharp to stand up to the spicy chicken) wilt melt and envelop everything, holding it all together under a cheese roof. It’s also your indicator for when to take the nachos out of the oven, when the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown.

green-pico-de-gallo

Linda Xiao

Green pico de gallo!

The Side Salsa

Keep the salsa on the side (I repeat: NO SOGGY NACHOS). And sour cream, if you’re my dad and have never missed a sour cream opportunity. We have amazing recipes for smoky cashew salsa, pico de gallo, tomatillo-avocado salsa. Make ‘em ahead!

Then Serve Move

When we tasted these in the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen (yeah, somebody’s gotta do it), we served them with tongs because too many people had colds and this was our attempt to not spread germs. It works great, though! So if you’re having a ton of germy people over, use this technique and give everyone their own little party plate of nachos. Aww!

Get the recipe:

chicken-nachos-1.jpg

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