Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Carne Asada Nachos, Grilled and Loaded

Sorry, no photo of the actual dish this week. Next time I make these, I'll remember to get the camera...

Though nachos were invented in Mexico, it is not a wildly popular dish in Mexico and rarely contains the number of ingredients and the inventiveness found in recipes in the USA-- where it IS wildly popular. So you could say that nachos are not really a 'traditional' Mexican dish, but there's nothing better for a tailgate party or for lunch on a hot summer day.

Originally 'invented' by Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya in Piedras Negras, Mexico, the orignal dish consisted only of tortilla wedges, longhorn cheddar cheese and jalapeno peppers, baked in a hot oven until the cheese was melted. In Mexico that is how they are generally served today, though tortilla chips have largely replaced the fresh tortillas originally used. (At the end of this post you will find a good history of nachos, courtesy of Wikipedia.) In the USA, however, there is no end to the number of recipes for nachos; you are limited only by your imagination. Note that nachos made with lots of ingredients are referred to as being 'loaded'.

I like to make them 'loaded', using carne asada rather than the more prevalent hamburger, or sometimes shredded chicken or pork depending on what I've got on hand. And I like to make them on the grill, both for flavor and to avoid using the oven on a hot day. So today's recipe is for


  • 1 (14-oz) sirloin steak, thinly sliced
  • 2 Garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup plus 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (13.5-ounce) bag tortilla chips
  • 2 cups Chihuahua or Mantega cheese, grated
  • 1/3 Cup bacon, fried and crumbled
  • 1 Medium red onion, chopped
  • 4 Jalapeno chiles, chopped
  • 1 Avocado, pitted, chopped and mashed
  • 1/4 Cup chopped cilantro


Place steak slices in large bowl or plastic resealable bag. Add garlic, lime juice, vinegar and 1/4 cup of the oil. Make sure all meat is well coated, then marinate at least 30 minutes.

Preheat grill to a hot temperature. Place strips of meat on grill and cook until no pink remains, turning frequently. Remove to a plate and set aside. At this point you can chop it into bite-sized pieces if you want to.

Arrange chips in a flat grilling pan. *Make sure you use a grill safe pan* Cover with onions, chiles, carne asada and cheese. Place on grill and then turn the grill off. Let it cook for about 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Watch it closely to make sure that the cheese doesn't burn. When cheese is melted, remove pan from grill, top with the bacon bits, avocado/guacamole, sprinkle with some chopped cilantro and serve immediately. Offer your favorite salsa(s) on the side (salsa Mexicana is a good choice).

Nachos originated in the city of Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, just over the border from Eagle Pass, Texas, at a restaurant called the Victory Club, owned by Rudolfo DeLos Santos. One day in 1943, the wives of ten to twelve U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Duncan in nearby Eagle Pass were in Piedras Negras on a shopping trip, and arrived at the restaurant after it had closed for the day. The maître d', Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya, invented a new dish for them with what little he had available in the kitchen: tortillas and cheese. Anaya cut the tortillas into triangles, added longhorn cheddar cheese, quickly heated them, and added sliced jalapeño peppers. He served the dish, calling it 'nachos especiales'.

Anaya went on to work at the Moderno Restaurant in Piedras Negras which still uses the original recipe. He also opened his own restaurant, "Nacho's Restaurant", in Piedras Negras. Anaya's original recipe was printed in the 1954 St. Anne's Cookbook.

The popularity of the snack quickly spread throughout Texas. The first known appearance of the word "nachos" in English dates to 1949, from the book A Taste of Texas. Waitress Carmen Rocha is credited with introducing the dish to Los Angeles at El Cholo Mexican restaurant in 1959.

A modified version of the dish, with permanently soft cheese and pre-made tortilla chips, was marketed by a man named Frank Liberto beginning in 1977, during sporting events at Arlington Stadium in Arlington, Texas. During a Monday Night Baseball game, sportscaster Howard Cosell enjoyed the name "nachos", and made a point of mentioning the dish in his broadcasts over the following weeks, further popularizing it and introducing it to a whole new audience.

Ignacio Anaya died in 1975. In his honor, a bronze plaque was erected in Piedras Negras, and October 21 was declared the International Day of the Nacho. Anaya's son Ignacio Anaya Jr. serves as a judge at the annual nacho competition.

Buen provecho!