Eric Akis: Make nachos a B.C. dish

Eric Akis

Some of our favourite foods did not come about because a chef spent countless hours perfecting the recipe before letting his customers try it. One of the best examples of that are nachos.

In fact, when the popular tortilla chip creation was first served, the restaurant’s cook was missing in action

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The story goes that, during the Second World War, wives of American military officers who lived in Eagle Pass, Texas, would, as a group, occasionally leave the base, cross the border and visit the nearby Mexican town of Piedras Negras. Part of the reason was so they could sip cocktails and eat snacks at a popular restaurant called the Victory Club.

On one visit, the restaurant’s owner, Ignacio Anaya, was, as usual, glad to see the women and happy take their business, but he had a problem. It must have been a slow time, because when he went into the kitchen, he couldn’t find his cook.

Not wanting to turn his customers away, he looked around the kitchen to see what he could quickly make. Not long after, he was making canapé-like creations — tortilla chips topped with cheese and jalapeno peppers, and baked.

The women really enjoyed them, asked what the were called and, lore suggests, not yet having a name for them, the quick thinking Anaya, whose nickname was Nacho, blurted out “Nacho’s especial.”

The women spread word about how tasty those nachos were. It also turned out that they were not difficult to make and slowly began to be served across southern Texas. The dish eventually moved northward and became popular in other parts of United States and Canada, too. That, of course, includes Vancouver Island, where pubs all over the Island have been serving nachos for decades.

If the late Ignacio Anaya were still alive, came to Victoria, were asked to make nachos and wanted to use B.C. ingredients, he would be very pleased. Because in many local food stores he would find fine quality tortilla chips made in B.C. by companies such as Adriana’s The Whole Enchilada (adrianasthewholeenchilada.com), Fresh Is Best (freshisbest.ca) and Que Pasa Foods (quepasafoods.com).

Those businesses also sell salsa to serve with nachos. Another B.C. company, Salsaman (salsaman.ca), also makes salsa.

A made-in-B.C. cheese sold at many local food stores that would be great to use for nachos is Qualicum Cheeseworks’ (cheeseworks.ca) Monterey Jill or Hot Jill. These brightly flavoured, fun-named styles of Monterey Jack cheese melt well, making them perfect for grating and sprinkling on nachos.

In today’s recipe for nachos, I also topped them with bell peppers and cherry tomatoes, which were grown in B.C., and bits of diced chorizo sausage, made in B.C. by Red Barn Market (redbarnmarket.ca). I served them with made-in-B.C. sour cream.

The only ingredients I used in my nachos not made or grown in B.C. were olives, green onions and cilantro, but the latter two items will be locally available soon.

That’s why I decided to call my recipe B.C.-style Nachos. It yields two tasty, meal-sized portions of nachos. Enjoy them for a casual supper while dining al fresco and sipping a cold beer, margarita, or glass of iced tea or lemonade.

B.C.-style Nachos for Two

These tasty, single-serving bowls of nachos are made with ingredients primarily made or grown in British Columbia.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Makes: Two servings

48 to 72 (depending on size) B.C.-made tortilla chips

100 to 150 grams Qualicum Cheeseworks Monterey Jill or Hot Jill Cheese, grated

1/3 cup finely diced smoked and cooked or cured B.C.-made chorizo sausage

6 to 8 B.C.-grown cherry tomatoes, each quartered

1/3 cup diced B.C.-grown green bell pepper

1/3 cup diced B.C.-grown yellow or orange or bell pepper

1/3 cup pitted black olives, sliced

2 green onions, thinly sliced

• B.C.-made or homemade tomato salsa, to taste

• sour cream, to taste

• fresh leaves of cilantro, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut two, 11-inch square pieces of parchment paper and set one on each of two ovenproof 9-inch wide shallow bowls or plates. Mound 12 to 18 tortilla chips on the paper on each bowl (or plate).

Top those chips with half the cheese, sausage, bell peppers, olives and green onion. Now set on the remaining tortilla chips. Top those chips with remaining cheese, sausage, bell peppers, olives and green onion.

Bake the nachos 10 minutes, or until hot and the cheese is melted. Serve the nachos with the salsa and sour cream for dunking, and cilantro, for sprinkling on them.

Eric’s options: You can, of course, flavour nachos any other way you want, adding other ingredients to them or replacing some of the ones called for with items that appeal more.

Other possible toppings include: canned, drained black beans; diced avocado; sliced jalapeño peppers; baby arugula; diced red onion; diced poblano pepper; small cooked salad shrimp; and shredded chicken.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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