by Kate Heyhoe
Makes a large bowl of chips
Stale corn tortillas produce crisper chips than do fresh tortillas. For nachos, slice the tortillas into 4 or 6 wedges. If the tortillas are very fresh, leave the wedges out at room temperature for one hour before frying.
Ingredients: Corn tortillas, corn, canola, or vegetable oil.
First, you need a heavy, deep pot (or use a deep-fat fryer and follow the manufacturer's instructions for oil-depth and heating). Fill the pot with 2 to 3 inches of corn, canola, or vegetable oil. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until a deep-frying thermometer registers to between 365 degrees F. and 375 degrees F. If you don't have such a thermometer, test the oil temperature by dropping in a chip. If the oil bubbles instantly and the chip rises to the surface, the oil is ready.
Carefully drop in only a handful of chips at a time, so the oil stays at optimum temperature. Stir them around with a strainer or slotted spoon to separate them. When the chips are light brown, in 1 or 2 minutes, scoop them out with the strainer, letting excess oil drip back into the pot, and dump them out on paper towels to drain. Salt the chips as desired. Continue frying any remaining chips in batches until done.
The basic formula for baked chips, whether they're made from pita bread, whole-wheat flour tortillas, or standard white flour tortillas is the same.
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. with an oven rack in the center position.
2. Spritz a flour tortilla lightly with nonstick spray, then slice the tortilla into 4, 6 or 8 wedges. Arrange the wedges on a baking sheet. If using pita bread, split the top and bottom rounds apart first, before slicing each round into wedges. (A pizza cutter does a fine job of wedge-cutting, or use a sharp knife.)
3. Bake 5 to 10 minutes, or until the wedges crisp up and turn toasty. Let cool slightly before eating.
Note: If you're using a light topping, as with dessert nachos, you don't need to pre-crisp the raw wedges into chips before adding toppings.
Of course you can pick up poofy bags of standard corn chips at the corner mini-mart or neighborhood supermarket. These chips off the ol' block are tasty and convenient, but to put more macho in your nacho, seek out other chip varieties/
Home-fried corn chips—Freshly fried tortilla chips made at home, hot out if the oil, taste so good they're usually consumed before you can say ¡Vamanos! If self-control is a problem, or you prefer more convenience, pick up freshly cooked chips from several sources: Mexican markets with hot food sections often fry their own chips, as do tortillarias. Better quality Mexican restaurants also cook their own chips daily. Ask to buy a bag, which are usually as cheap as store-bought but more convenient than frying chips at home. If you're throwing a party, these freshly-fried chips can put the icing on the cake, or the cheese on the chip, so to speak.
Flavored chips—Corn chips aren't just yellow or white. Chips with added natural flavors and ingredients can be quite colorful and festive. Consider these varieties:
Even plain corn chips can range from nearly white to pale yellow to deep gold. And don't forget the infinite variety of chips dusted with flavors, like Ranch, Salsa, Lime, "Nacho" flavored chips, and other grocery-aisle favorites. But beware: some chips taste too salty to make a good nacho, especially if your toppings are on the salty side, as with ham, feta cheese, or olives. With salty toppers, opt for low-salt or no-salt chips.
Finally, some corn chips are baked rather than fried. They're not my first choice, simply because I'm nuts for fried chips, but there's nothing wrong with using baked corn chips if that's what you prefer.
Shape, texture, and thickness—Does the manner in which a chip is formed make a difference? Yep, but it depends on the nacho. Sometimes you want a sturdy chip to support a tower of ingredients without breaking. But with fewer ingredients or more refined ones, a thinner, subtler chip works best.
For instance, the Caviar & Chive Nachos and the Lox & Cream Cheese Nachos in my Macho Nachos book require a delicate chip, one with a mild corn flavor, just a touch of salt, and a smoother texture than that of the typical corn chip. I found just the right product in Torengos. These ultra-thin, crisp chips are the Pringles of the corn chip aisle: They're pressed and formed like a bakery product, shaped into perfect, identical triangles. Toppings neatly and pristinely nestle in their bowl-like, slightly concaved shape. Arranged on a tray, they make an elegant presentation for a black-tie affair, and they come stacked in a can, so there are no broken fragments to contend with.
But sometimes, as with a hearty bean-and-cheese nacho, a thick, rustic chip supports the weight of the toppings better than a thinner chip. The shape of the chip usually doesn't make as much difference as the thickness, so circles and triangles can pretty much be used interchangeably. Fried tortilla strips are less desirable, unless you're strewing them across the tray and don't care about picking up each nacho chip separately.
Flour tortilla and other "alternative" chips—Corn chips, with their assertive corn flavor, don't always taste best with all ingredients. Dessert nachos in particular do well with the milder taste of flour tortilla chips. I don't know of anyone who sells commercially-baked flour tortilla chips, but you can crisp them up at home in minutes (see Oven-Baked Alternatives above). Home-baked chips from whole-wheat flour tortillas and pita bread lend themselves well to Middle Eastern ingredients. Chip makers are coming up with new types of snacks daily, so experiment. Some of these products (such as the delicate wheat flavored Sun Chips) can put a unique spin on traditional nachos.
Copyright © 2004, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created January 2004
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