Global flavors: Celebrate the Olympics with creative nacho recipes

Feb 06, 2018
American-Statesman Staff
Keema is the name of a traditional Indian dish of ground meat cooked with spices. Austinite Hema Reddy serves hers with chips for a nacholike treat. Contributed by Hema Reddy

The global experience that is the Olympics returns this weekend, which gives us a fun opportunity to learn about different countries and parts of the world while watching the triple axels and halfpipes.

Food is one way to bring far-off places a little closer to home, and snack foods are perfect for eating by the TV. I propose that you could probably come up with a riff on nachos for every country — from South Korea, which is hosting the games on the slopes of Pyeongchang, to the not-so-wintry South Africa, which hopes to send its first black Alpine skier.

To start, find the country’s best-known (or most appealing) meat or protein source — think German sausage or tandoor chicken. For South Africa, you’d probably experiment with the national sausage called boerewors. Make sure the main meat or vegetable isn’t too soggy, or else your crunchy bed of chips will get mushy. Then look for other side dishes, signature spices, garnishes and sauces associated with that meat and part of the world to add to your culinary creation.

For a Thai-spiced chicken, you’d add cilantro, Sriracha and maybe a lime rice; for an impressive plate of Korean nachos, layer bulgogi beef, scallions, gochujang and kimchi. Don’t forget the regional U.S. staples, such as barbecue nachos with pulled chicken or pork, shredded cabbage and pickles.

Deana Larkin Evans creates barbecue chicken nachos with smoked gouda cheese, roasted chicken, barbecue sauce and Greek pepperoncini on a pile of everyday tortilla chips. Contributed by Deana Larkin Evans Photo: American-Statesman Staff

You’ll notice that nearly every nacho creation has some form of pickled element to balance out the heaviness of cheese and meat. Pepperoncinis top Deana Larkin Evans’ barbecue chicken nachos. The Austin blogger behind the Weekly Menu adds smoked gouda cheese, roasted chicken, barbecue sauce and Greek pepperoncini to a pile of everyday tortilla chips.

For its popular appetizer, the Southwestern-style chicken nachitos, Jack Allen’s Kitchen uses chargrilled chicken, which adds a smokiness that’s hard to replicate at home unless you’re using a grill. You could use rotisserie chicken or chicken al carbon from a Pollo Rico or Pollo Regio.

When combined with a tinga sauce — made with adobo sauce, tomatoes, red onion and pico de gallo — the chicken graces the top of a stack of chips piled in a very specific way: chips topped with whole black beans and queso topped with more chips, which are then covered in pureed black beans, American cheese, the tinga chicken, cotija cheese and pickled jalapeños.

Southwestern-style nachos from Jack Allen’s Kitchen have both pureed and whole black beans, as well as queso and chicken tinga. Contributed by McConnell Photography Photo: American-Statesman Staff

Austinite and Sneaky Apron founder Hema Reddy serves her Indian-inspired nachos more as a dip than a stack of chips, which is why she nicknamed the dish Nachos on the Side Please, Not Smothered, and Make It Curry.

It illustrates the point: When it comes to snacking, you just can’t beat a good chip with a bite of something delicious on top.

Keema Nachos

Hema Reddy, who runs a local kid-friendly nugget company called Sneaky Apron, shared this recipe for keema nachos, inspired by the Indian dish of minced meat with aromatics. You can replace the ground turkey with any number of proteins, as she suggests.

— Addie Broyles

1 small head of cauliflower (or 1 1/2 cups store-bought cauliflower rice)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

5 to 6 garlic cloves, chopped

1 Thai green chili or jalapeño, finely chopped

1 pound ground turkey (or chicken or beef or pork or tofu)

1/2 cup cooked quinoa (optional)

1/2 tablespoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder (optional)

1 teaspoon cumin powder

Kosher salt to taste

Cilantro for garnish

In a food processor, pulse the cauliflower to make cauliflower rice. In a heavy bottomed pan, add olive oil. Add the onions and garlic, and saute until translucent. Add the green chili, ground meat, cauliflower rice and quinoa. Stir well.

Cook with the lid on for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and, using a potato masher, break up any chunks. Add the curry powder, turmeric, cumin powder and salt. Mix well, and put the lid back on. Turn the heat to medium-high. You will see all the water leaving the meat and then slowly drying up. Reduce the heat to medium and stir every minute as the meat browns.

Once lightly browned, turn the heat off and serve with a side of tortilla chips. You can serve the keema on top of the chips, but they tend to get soggy quickly under the meat. Serve with pico de gallo, cucumber raita sauce or cumin yogurt, which is a mix of yogurt mixed with a pinch of salt and 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder.

— Hema Reddy, sneakyapron.com

These Italian nachos were topped with Alfredo sauce, chopped chicken, olives, mozzarella and thin slices of yellow peppers. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman Photo: American-Statesman Staff

Italian Nachos

When I was in college, there was a fine dining restaurant called Addison’s in Columbia, Mo., that served Nachos Bianco. If that sounds fancy, it’s because it was a fancy place. Too fancy for me, most of the time, but every time I went, we got these chips topped with Asiago cheese sauce, scallions, Kalamata olives, banana peppers, mozzarella and chicken. Addison’s is still open, serving platterfuls of these appetizers every day, but it wasn’t until recently that I tried to re-create the dish at home.

Lacking a tool to make such thin sheets of pasta, I opted for frying wonton wrappers. They don’t have exactly the same effect as the pasta chips you might have also tried at Johnny Carino’s or another Italian restaurant, but with the Alfredo sauce, black olives, chicken and mozzarella, the dish still had an Italian feel. We didn’t use all the toppings I suggest in this recipe, so feel free to edit to your own preference, too.

Wonton wrappers, which are usually found in the produce section or other part of the store with the tofu, can be tedious to prepare, but they add a fresher crunch than you’ll get from a bag of tortilla chips. Some grocery stores sell pasta chips or chips made from other starches that could be substituted for frying your own. You could also use a store-bought Alfredo sauce, if you prefer. This cream cheese version comes from Life in the Lofthouse. For a lighter tray of nachos, leave out the sausage and double the chicken.

— Addie Broyles

1/2 package wonton wrappers, cut on the diagonal, to make triangles

For the Alfredo sauce:

4 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 ounces cream cheese

1 cup milk

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

For the toppings:

1 pound ground Italian sausage, browned and drained

1/3 pound cooked, chopped chicken

1/4 cup banana peppers

1/2 cup sliced black olives

2 Roma tomatoes, chopped

1/2 to 1 cup grated mozzarella

Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Heat about 1/2-inch of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully, deep-fry wrappers, 4 at a time, in the oil for about 30 to 40 seconds or until light golden. Remove from heat, and drain on paper towels. Repeat with all wrappers, using more or less of the chips depending on how many people you are feeding. (We only used half a package.)

While working on the wontons, make the Alfredo sauce. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, and then add the garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Place the cream cheese in the saucepan, and whisk until smooth. Add the milk, and whisk until smooth and combined. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Continue to stir until sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Spread fried wrappers in a single layer onto a large parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with as much of the Alfredo sauce as you like, then top evenly with browned sausage, chicken, banana peppers, black olives, chopped tomatoes, mozzarella and Parmesan. Place the nachos in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.

— Addie Broyles