Have I got a doozy of a story for you all today. Strap in, because this is a long one.
Not too long ago, a friend of mine (Hi Adriane!) made the “joke” that whenever she wants to make something but can’t decide on a recipe, she’d tell me to make it and use whatever I posted. She then suggested the idea of baked nachos. I thought they sounded good, so I decided I would go all-out and make some from scratch. Simple, right?
The first step was research, as always. I decided I wanted to make the tortilla chips from scratch, since I’ve done that before with my handmade flour tortillas. I’ve turned those into chips, and they turned out fine. But, instead of using flour tortillas, I wanted to make corn tortillas for real corn chips. So I looked into some recipes, and they all called for Masa Harina.
We had a big grocery run planned, so I added it to the list. Unfortunately, when the day came around, we were stressed and in a hurry (partner got his booster, and we spent a long time in the store looking for things) AND, with all of the supply shortages going on, we were worried about getting everything we wanted. So, when I saw a bag that said “harina” on it, I grabbed it, thinking I had the right stuff.
Turns out “harina” just means “flour”. Don’t blame me, I didn’t study Spanish growing up! What I had actually grabbed was “harina preparada”, which is basically Bisquick but for tortillas. It’s wheat flour, salt, baking soda, and so on, all mixed together. It’s certainly great, but it won’t make corn tortillas.
Unfortunately, I didn’t notice this right away. I noticed it the next day, when I went to make my tortillas. Disaster!
Now, if you know me, you know I don’t give up easily. Determined, I dug through the cupboards and found an old half-empty bag of corn meal. More research indicated that you can make something similar to corn flour by grinding down corn meal. My food processor wasn’t up to the task, but my spice grinder did a fine job.
Those of you familiar with masa harina are probably still laughing. Turns out, it’s a special kind of corn flour made from corn that is soaked in lime (the calcium hydroxide kind, not the fruit). Undeterred, I decided to try it out anyway. It made a tortilla fairly similar to my flour tortillas, which cooked up into chips that were… fine. They were kind of thick, kind of crunchy, and a little grainy. But, they weren’t really tortilla chips, so they weren’t what I wanted. Back to the drawing board!
Finally, I just decided to go get the right stuff. Turns out our local Target had masa harina in stock, and we had other errands to run in the area, so I just went and did that.
Armed with the right stuff, I started again. Making the dough leaves you with something kind of the texture of playdough, though (I assume) more delicious. Taking individual portions of this dough and rolling it out was a bit of a trial. It’s a fairly fragile dough, so I had to carefully roll it out between layers of plastic wrap, since I don’t own a tortilla press. Still, I was able to roll them out pretty thin, and they baked up nicely.
Since I was already invested in making this a long post, I decided to experiment with turning the corn tortillas into chips. I tried three different methods:
- Frying in oil.
- Baking without oil.
- Baking brushed with oil.
The overall verdict is that frying them worked the best, but baking them with oil was also good. Baking without oil was alright, but it didn’t taste quite as good and wasn’t quite as crispy. Also, the fried chips curled up more, while the baked chips stayed flat. While I preferred the fried chips, I was running short on time to make the nachos, so I baked the rest.
FINALLY, I was able to assemble the nachos. I used a Mexican cheese blend, diced tomato, corn, black olives, and taco meat. We also had lettuce, refried beans, sour cream, and some salsa to add on top after they baked. You, of course, can do whatever you like to make your nachos a delight.
- I used ground beef, but I like taco-spiced chicken too.
- Mexican cheese blends are my go-to, but you can also make a nacho cheese sauce as well.
- If I had more time, I may have cooked some onions to add. I’m not a fan of raw onion, though, so I left it out.
- I don’t care for guacamole, but if you like it, go for it.
- My partner doesn’t go in for spicy stuff, so I added hot sauce to my own serving after the fact. I could have gone with pickled jalapenos or another pepper, though.
The moral of the story is, do what you like! I’ve seen people recommend radishes, beans, chili, and all kinds of other nonsense to their nachos.
My recipe below lists how to make the tortilla chips from scratch, but if you want, just skip that and buy your own corn chips. I’m just being Extra™. Hope you like it, Adriane!
- 1 Baking Sheet
- 1 Rolling Pin Or a tortilla press, if you have one.
- 1 Cast Iron Skillet
- 1 Pastry Brush
For the Tortilla Chips
- 2 Cups Masa Harina
- 1½ Cups Warm Water
- Canola Oil For brushing the chips.
For the Nachos
- ½ Can Black Olives About 12-14 olives.
- ½ Can Corn
- 1 Pound Ground Beef
- 2 Tbsp Taco Seasoning
- 2 Cups Shredded Cheese
- 2 Roma Tomatoes Diced.
- 1 Cup Shredded Lettuce
- Sour Cream
- Refried Beans
Make the Tortillas
- Mix the masa harina and the water until it forms a soft dough.
- Divide the dough into 16 dough balls.
- One at a time, roll the dough balls out into tortillas. They should be around 8" rounds. A tortilla press would make this easy. I used plastic wrap to keep the dough from sticking to my rolling pin.
- Heat the cast iron skillet over medium-high.
- Put a tortilla into the skillet and cook on each side for 30-60 seconds (depending on how thick it is.) It usually took be about the same amount of time to roll out one while the previous was cooking.
Make the Chips
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Put the tortillas on the baking sheet and "bake" for about two minutes, to dry them out some.
- Brush the tortillas on both sides with canola oil, then cut them into chips with a knife. Lightly sprinkle them with salt.
- Arrange the chips onto the baking sheet on a single layer, and bake for 6 minutes.
- Flip the chips and continue baking until crunchy, another 6-8 minutes.
Make the Nachos
- Spread your chips out on your baking sheet.
- Cover them in a layer of shredded cheese.
- Arrange your toppings. I recommend leaving out things like lettuce, that will lose their texture being baked, or sour cream, which will melt and dissolve. Put those on top later.
- Add more cheese on top, to hold everything together.
- Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
- Top with whatever extra toppings you want, and enjoy!