Ignacio Anaya Garcia - © archival

Nachos: Honour Their Creator By Doing Them Right!

What’s easy to throw together, sticks to the ribs, encourages social interaction and can warm you up faster than an open fire on a cold winter’s day? It’s a big platter of Nachos, of course! And it’s time we all took a closer look at this iconic treat and learned how to make it properly…

Nachos especiales - © diariodemexicousa.comOriginal Nacho’s especiales: Simple is best…

Yes, there is really a ‘proper’ way to make ‘Classic’ Nachos. And it harks back to the creation of the dish in 1943 in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, just over the border from Eagle Pass, Texas.

But first, a little history..

Seems that the wives of U.S. servicemen stationed at Fort Duncan in Eagle Pass would take shopping days out in Piedras Negras and meet for lunch at the Victory Club hotel. One such day, they arrived after the hotel restaurant had closed but, not wanting to turn away regular customers, the The Maître d’, Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Anaya Garcia (pictured top of page), quickly surveyed what he had left in the kitchen, and whipped up the first tray of Nachos. It was simply a platter of Fried Corn Tortilla triangles covered with Cheese and some slices of Pickled Jalapeño Peppers, and baked under the broiler until the Cheeses melted.

The ladies loved the Chips, which soon became a regular menu item at the Victory Club. When they asked what the dish was called, Anaya quipped, “Nacho’s especiales“, applying his own nickname. But it wouldn’t be until several years later that the name ‘Nacho’ and the associated dish started to receive wide-spread attention.

By 1950, Anaya was running his own place, Nacho’s Restaurant, in Piedras Negeas, and Nachos especiales was on the menu at several establishments where he had worked in the interim.

The real breakthrough for Nachos came in 1976 when concessionaire Frank Liberto started selling them at his stand during Texas Rangers baseball games at Arlington Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Hence, the birth of ‘Ballpark Nachos’. It was legendary Sports caster Howard Cosell who made Nachos famous when he discovered the dish during a Monday Night Football game in Dallas, where the Cowboys were hosting the Baltimore Colts. He liked the sound of the name ‘Nachos’ so much he repeated it several times throughout the game broadcast, and a legend was born.

The proper way to honour Anaya

After his death in 1975, Nacho Anaya’s hometown, Piedras Negras, declared October 21 International Day of the Nacho, and erected a bronze plaque to commemorate the dish and its creator. We may have missed International Day of the Nacho here at MJ’s FFB, bot we won’t let any more time pass before sharing our classic take on this international favourite.

First, can we agree that all those showy, nutty, overloaded, elaborately excessive ‘Nachos’ we often see on restaurant menus and in newspaper or internet food articles are not the real deal? Good. Now, let’s return to 1943 and declare the essenbtial ingredients in a true Nacho.

Start with large Fried (crispy) Corn Tortilla Chips. These can be made by ‘pie’ slicing regular soft Corn Tortillas into triangles and deep frying or baking them, or – now a days – bought ready-made from the store. I like the large premium Tostitos Chips that co0me in regular style or various flavours. Sister Erin i9nsists we only use the Tostitos premium Hint of Garlic Chips for our Nachos and to slake our Dipping cravings. I have to agree. The hint of Garlic is addicitive, and goes beautifully with anything you might want to put on your Nachos. But to be strictly classical, you must use plain Tortilla Chips.

Next, you’ll need Cheddar Cheese. yes, Cheddar. But I often substitute Jack or Mozzarella depending on what I have at hand. Just remember, you need Cheddar to get that truly classic orange colour!

No selection of Nacho toppings can succeed without a layer of sliced Jalapeños. Most folks now generally use picked ones, which usually already come in slices. I occasionally pickle my own Jalapeños and I like to dice them up in about 1/8 in. / 5-6 mm ‘flavour bursts’ which can be evenly sprinkled over the tray without concentrating too much heat in any particular area. This is great if your family and friends are not particularly ‘spicy’ fans.

After that, the choice is yours. Just Google ‘Nachos Recipes’ and you’ll get back 20.4 million hits! For example… I have made breakfast nachos scattering fairly dry, crumbly Scrambled Eggs over the Classic Cheese and Pepper foundation and topping that with Bacon Bits or Sausage Crumbles.

Just one further caveat: Real Nachos are only for snacking or lunch. If you over-embellish them, for a suppertime main, they’re no longer any legitimate relation to real ‘Nacho’s especiales‘.

The cardinal rule

But one cardinal rule applies: Keep it simple! Real ‘Classic Nachos’ should have no more than two additional ingredients on top of the Cheese and Peppers. Piling on Refried Beans, Taco Sauce, Avocados, Pico de Gallo and a whole list of other stuff (as one ‘Nachos Supreme’ recipe I found suggests) really just disrespects the dish’s humble beginnings and betrays its original, simple appeal that attracted those gals from Fort Duncan to it in the first place.

If what you want is a huge pile of fancy ingredients on Corn Tortillas, make Tacos!

Have fun and enjoy this classic Tex/Mex treat anytime the munchies come calling…

~ Maggie J.