Hosting casual parties is fun. You need not bother about dressing up or setting the table with fine crockery. The best part is that the food need not be ostentatious – something that is music to the ears of even the most consummate host. After all, who does not want to relax at a party, be it the guest or the host?
This is a reason why nachos are the perfect party food if you are entertaining a few friends without any elaborate ceremony. You can easily pair it with wine, beer or any other beverage and if your guests are still hungry, you can just grill some sausages and you are all sorted.
If you intend to host one such party where nachos will dominate, here are some tips to make the Mexican staple become the talking point:
ONE – Choose the right tortilla chips: The tortillas are the foundation of your nachos and if they fail, then the nachos will be dismal too. The perfect tortilla chips need to be thin, crisp, mildly flavored and of the right size – neither too small, nor too large. Your best bet is picking up the store-bought tortilla chips.
If you opt for the readymade tortilla chips then use them as is, and don’t try to fry or bake them. They can be had with an accompanying salsa, cheese sauce, or even plain, without sauce.
TWO – Use Corn Masa for homemade tortillas: If you would rather make tortillas at home, use Corn Masa, which is dried corn coarsely ground corn and dried again. Don’t confuse this with corn our, generally used as a thickening agent in Chinese cuisine.
THREE – Salsa for every season: You can make salsa from practically any fruit or vegetable, as long as it has three key flavors – sweetness, which comes from the fruit itself, sourness, which comes from lime juice or tobacco or capers or jalapeno or balsamic vinegar and spiciness that comes from chilies or jalapenos. You can enhance the regular tomato salsa with minced olives, jalapenos, fresh basil, cilantro, mint, roasted bell peppers, balsamic or even roasted or frilled tomatoes instead of the traditional raw tomatoes.
FOUR – Say cheese: The best cheese available in India is cheddar, which is subtle and easily available locally. Opt for either
the white or yellow cheddar that is usually available in tins. Avoid mozzarella and blue cheese as these do not go well with nachos. Also grate the cheese yourself, which helps in uniform melting.
FIVE – Get creative: Traditionally, nachos comprise maize flour chips with tomato salsa, sour cream and cheese sauce. Today, these maize chips can be substituted with plain potato wafers, pita crisps, baked burrito wraps (fried or baked), thick potato chips or readymade nachos. You can also toss some minced meat with beans in the salsa.
SIX – Innovate at will: While there is no substitute for the trifecta of nachos – classic cheese sauce, tomato salsa and guacamole (avocado salsa). You can play with the flavor of the cheese sauce and tomato salsa to a great extent. Flavor the cheese sauce with fried onion, fried garlic, mixed herbs, jalapenos, chili flakes, pizza seasoning, mushrooms, jerk spice or a mix of three cheeses for a different flavor.
SEVEN – Serve with care: While serving nachos, dish the sauces separately. That way the nachos stay crisp longer, and your guests can dip the nachos into the sauces of their choice. If your guests prefer gooey and cheesy nachos, there is nothing like a cheesy messy platter topped with salsa, jalapenos, cilantro and olives.
EIGHT – Make it elaborate: While nachos are comfort food, you can also make it into an elaborate meal. Try multi-flavored nachos and toss them in a variety of stuffed olives including cheese stuffed, jalapeno, red chili stuffed olives. You can also place multiple dips around the nachos platter to make it look attractive; for instance tomato salsa, cheese sauce, sour cream, guacamole, pepper salsa, olive tapenade, mushrooms, olives, refried beans, minced meat, chicken, smoked sausages.
If there is another important thing you need to know about nachos it is that they tend to run out soon. No one can resist them, so make sure you make enough dips and have adequate chips to dip them in. Now you are all set to host a super-fun, super-casual party anytime you wish!
– Vinita Bhatia with inputs from Chef Amit Puri, Corporate Chef, Pan India Solutions