Friday, November 23, 2012

Bastardo Nachos

When we think nachos, we think American. Because the dish was brought over by the Americans during their short occupation of the country, along with the hamburger, macaroni and cheese and an addiction to chips. And really, we should. As Anthony Bourdain said in his visit to Mexico City with Les Halle main man Carlos, Nachos is an alien concept to Mexicans, even if all major Mexican-themed fast food joints offer them. Sure, there's the easily found version of the Piedras Negras, Coahuila restaurant where a guy named Nacho served American GIs the best thing he could slap together (a tale much like the origins of the famous New York invention, the Buffalo wings). But in reality, Nachos are as American as the hamburger is as far from the original meat sandwich from Hamburg.

I touched on the idea of the bastardo concept I love to do at the end of my last post. Let me expound on that. Even with the expanding choices of ingredients we have in the country, most people still cannot afford the imported ingredients that would be inconsequential to First World cooks. Most Westerners would not think twice about grabbing a wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano in their weekly grocery shopping. But man, not many Pinoys can spare the 250 peso price tag of real good cheese. Much like how my relatives and friends in the US pine for simple things for me like chili and tamarind leaves and lemongrass, it would take some real effort for me to find and buy authentic arborio rice for a paella. But I like to cook and try my hand at dishes not traditionally Filipino. I have respect for authenticity and will aim for it as much as I can, but I have many limits. There comes a point where I just say to hell with it and make the closest version I can of a dish using ingredients available to me. As long as one understands the flavors of ingredients, I believe one can replicate or even improve upon it.

So here is an Americanized dish with Mexican roots bastardized by yours truly.

Bastardo Nachos


What you need:

Cheese sauce:
a cup of milk
a bar of grated quickmelt cheese
a cup of grated Parmesan cheese
a box of all purpose cream
dash of thyme

Meat sauce:
a kilo of ground lean meat (I chose brisket and had it ground)
5 large chopped tomatoes
a can of button mushrooms sliced
2 medium bell peppers
Jalapeño slices
half a head of garlic
1 and a half medium white onions finely sliced to strips
coriander or kinchay, chopped
a teaspoon of cumin
two teaspoons of paprika
a teaspoon of cayenne pepper
half a teaspoon of chilli powder
a dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
a dash of dried and chopped oregano
a dash of dried thyme
2 tablespoons of sugar

How to do it:

Saute garlic til lightly browned, add ground beef, season and saute until brown. Put in sliced bell peppers. Add all of the spices, herbs and Worcestershire sauce. Add tomatoes and mushrooms, cook through, until tomatoes are done but not mushy. Add sugar to taste, turn off heat and work in finely jullienned white onion and Jalapeño slices. Set aside.

Simmer milk in a new pan over low fire, add grated quickmelt cheese, salt, pepper and thyme. When fully melted, add grated Parmesan and cream. Simmer til mixed thoroughly and until you reach the right consistency.

To serve:
Put chips on a plate, drizzle with cheese sauce, top with meat sauce.

Some notes:

Jalapeños can be found canned or bottled in well stocked supermarkets. I found some in Rustans' supermarket in Il Terrazzo on Tomas Morato, QC. I have substituted roasted bell peppers and labuyo for the smoky flavor and heat of the Mexican chili. I even tried putting diced pimientos for more flavor. But if there are two things you absolutely have to have in this dish, they are cumin and cilantro, they are what gives the meat sauce a kick and that distinctive aroma. If you find nacho chips or hand broken tacos just too bland or expensive, I've found that Jack and Jill's Pic-A. To illustrate why it's perfect for Nachos here's a description of the product from a post on "[Pic-A is a]combination of three terrific Jack ‘N Jill snacks: Nova (our local version of Frito-Lay’s Sun Chips), Tostillas (Doritos), and Piattos, which has no international equivalent.)". All of these snacks are flavorful on its own, but together, they make the perfect bed for the sauce. And at 30++ pesos, it's a cheaper option than the nacho chips and tacos you can buy at the supermarket for 50++ pesos.
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