Another kind of sheet-pan supper is nachos, and that is today’s Kitchen Basics lesson.
Nachos may stretch the definition of sheet-pan supper a bit in that most of the cooking is done on the stove and the dish is simply finished in the oven.
But it does produce a complete meal of protein, starch and vegetables all loaded up on one sheet pan.
Actually, the only stovetop cooking required is that of the beef or chorizo. If you omitted the meat to make this vegetarian, you’d need only the oven.
The nachos really have only three requirements: crispy tortillas, cheese and some spicy heat.
For the tortillas, store-bought chips work just fine. But it is easy enough to make your own if you have some soft corn tortillas on hand.
Cut the tortillas — preferably thin ones — into wedges of six or eight. You can fry them a few at a time in a couple inches of oil. Much easier, though, is to bake them. Lightly grease a baking sheet and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Space the wedges apart in a single layer. If desired, grease or spray the tops, too. (Alternatively, you can brush the whole tortillas on both sides with oil before cutting.) Bake 12 to 15 minutes until crisp, flipping once about halfway through.
Whichever way you cook them, remember to salt them while they are still hot.
For cheese, I like sharp cheddar, because it has a more robust flavor than Monterey Jack, but either one works fine. Colby Jack is OK, too. Sprinkling cheese over the tortillas and then melting it in the oven is what most people do for nachos. But my family prefers a cheese sauce. It’s an extra step, and requires dirtying a pan on the stove, but every time I skip it my family always gives me a look.
You can add spice to nachos in several ways, and I tend do a little of all of them. I cook it into my filling, such as ground beef. I also scatter a few jalapeno slices over the nachos. Finally, I serve hot sauce or salsa at the table for a garnish.
Speaking of garnish, most of my nacho ingredients are what you call garnishes. In addition to jalapenos, salsa and hot sauce, there are tomatoes, black olives, onion, radishes, cilantro, sour cream and avocado. I don’t always use all of them, but probably 90 percent of them.
If you plan to make a meal of nachos, it helps to have a substantial filling. Ground beef and chorizo, cooked first, are popular. But, hey, if you have some leftover chili, that’s pretty good, too. Vegetarians may wish to go with black or other beans. I actually like beans and meat together on mine. Some roasted vegetables work well, too. Cauliflower is especially good. Try roasting the cauliflower or tossing the beans with some chili powder and cumin if you are not using any seasoned meat.
With vegetables, just watch the moisture content. You don’t want to load anything on the tortillas that will make them soggy. You can cook the vegetables first to remove some of the moisture. Or you can scatter a small quantity of moist vegetables over the tortillas for when it cooks. Or you simply can sprinkle the raw vegetables over the nachos after the dish comes out of the oven. The latter is often the best solution, as it ensures that the tortillas stay crisp, and it provides a nice contrast between wet and dry, soft and crunchy and cold and hot.