Five Essential Rules of Nachos From Houston’s Chris Shepherd, a James Beard Award-Winning Chef

Kate Krader wrote . . . . . .

In the world of food, some dishes requires recipes, other don’t. And on the face of it, nachos would seem to fall in the latter category. If you have a pile of chips, some cheese and chili, instructions would seem superfluous. Yet nachos are more involved than you might think.

Shepherd has five rules for the perfect nachos. In advance of Super Bowl Ll, that’s being played in his home town of Houston, he wanted to share them with us.

1. Chips Are All Important. “Make sure your chips are thick and sturdy. If you get only one takeaway from this recipe, it’s thick chips. And they should be a certain shape. Are rounds good? No, I don’t think so, you want the corner texture; it’s a little crispier. And homemade are too greasy; don’t waste your time trying to make your own chips.” Testing tip: Not all thick chips are created equal. Make sure yours are sturdy and won’t melt when sauce hits them. If you’re serious about your nachos, it’s worth doing a test with a few chips and salsa to make sure they’ll hold up.

2. Go for Double Cheese. “If you’re only going to do one cheese, go with shredded Colby or Cheddar. Flavor and texture-wise it’s a better payoff, the way the cheese clings to the chip. But if you can do both cheese sauce and shredded cheese, you’ll be happier. You’re basically ensuring a jackpot with every chip.”

3. Layering, Layering, Layering. “The worst mistake you can make with nachos is to pour everything over the top. A high-rising pile of nachos is a beautiful thing. Respect the bottom layers; you don’t want those chips to be naked. Construct your nachos: bottom layer, middle layer, top layer.” Testing tip: This doesn’t mean a nacho mountain—the toppings inside won’t melt. Use a large pan and spread the chips out. And then, of course, top them well.

4. Pickled Hominy Is Your Secret Weapon. “Listen to me: I know pickled hominy might sound intimidating. All you have to do is buy a can of hominy at the store, open it, drain it, and pour a little of the warm pickling liquid on top. And bang, you’ve got acidity and the texture, that little crunchy kernel full of bright acidity. You have your nachos, covered in heavy meat and cheese, and all of a sudden you get a bite of hominy, and ‘Doop!’ Some people think that comes from a tomato, but hominy brings it to another level entirely.”

5. Texture is Key. “This recipe is especially constructed to deliver texture to the happy diner. Thick chips; chewy pickled hominy; crisp cabbage, and so on. In my opinion there is nothing worse than a soggy pile of chips. Do not let this happen to you. Please.”

Recipe: Chris’s Deluxe Nachos


Nacho Meat

2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 lb ground beef
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tbsp onion powder (optional)

Homemade Pickled Jalapeños and Hominy

2 cups water
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp salt
1 cup sliced raw jalapeños (about 4 medium)
1 cup drained hominy

Spicy Cheese Sauce

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
1 cup half and half
8 oz grated sharp Cheddar
2 slices American cheese
2 tbsp sambal oelek Asian chile sauce or Sriracha

Nacho Fixings

two 16-ounce bags of thick, sturdy tortilla chips
1-1/2 cups nacho meat
2 cups spicy cheese Sauce
3 cups shredded or cubed colby Jack cheese
1 cup homemade or storebought pickled jalapeños
1 cup homemade pickled hominy
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 cup pico de gallo, for serving
1 cup sour cream, for serving
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, for serving


  1. To cook the meat, heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring, until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients and cook for 1 minute. Season with salt to taste. Set aside.
  2. To make the pickled jalapeños and hominy, combine all ingredients except the jalapeños and hominy in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Put the sliced jalapeños in one bowl and the hominy in another bowl. Divide the hot pickling liquid between the bowls. Let cool to room temperature.
  3. To prepare the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Slowly stir in the flour and cook over moderate heat until the roux is smooth and bubbling, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the milk and half and half. Cook, whisking occasionally to remove any lumps, until thickened and smooth, about 15 minutes. Slowly whisk in the grated sharp cheddar, a handful at a time. Add the American cheese, and let it melt into the sauce. Stir in the sambal. Season with salt.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  5. Assembly: Cover a large, rimmed cookie sheet or baking pan with foil. Arrange a layer of tortilla chips on the cookie sheet. Spread one-third of the nacho meat on the chips, followed by a third each of the cheese sauce, Colby cheese, jalapeños, hominy and cabbage. Repeat the process two more times. Bake in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Top with the remaining ingredients. Consume immediately.

Source: Bloomberg

Chinese Stir-fry of Chicken and Bell Pepper


160 g skinless and boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into triangles
1 red chili, cut into triangles
1/2 onion, cut into triangles
1 stalk green onion, cut into sections
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tbsp oil


1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp oil
1/8 tsp sesame oil
dash ground white pepper


1/4 cup water
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1/8 tsp sesame oil


  1. Mix chicken with marinate and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Heat oil in a wok. Add chicken and stir-fry until 80% cooked. Add the remaining ingredients. Toss to combine.
  4. Mix in the sauce and toss until the sauce thickens. Remove and serve.

Source: Hong Kong magazine

In Pictures: Character Bento


MRI Scans could Spare 25% of Men from Prostate Biopsies

“Every man with suspected prostate cancer should have an MRI scan,” The Guardian reports. That is the conclusion of a study looking at how well MRI scans compare with the current practice of biopsies; removing sections of prostate tissue for analysis.

Disadvantages of prostate biopsies include the fact that they can lead to a small risk of side effects, some of which can be serious, such as sepsis.

Researchers were looking at an advanced type of MRI scan, known as a multi-parametric MRI, which as well as looking at the shape and size of the prostate, can also assess other factors such as blood flow through the gland.

The scan was used on more than 500 British men. The results suggest that scanning would safely reduce the number of men needing a biopsy by about a quarter. Moreover, in men with an aggressive prostate cancer the combination of MRI scan followed by a biopsy is almost twice as likely to pick up clinically significant cancer.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is currently considering this new diagnostic method to decide whether introducing it will be cost-effective.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from University College London, Royal Marsden Hospital, University of York, Hampshire Hospitals NHS Trust and UCLH NHS Foundation Trust, all in the UK.

The study was funded by the UK Government Department of Health, National Institute of Health Research- Health Technology Assessment Programme, UCLH/UCL Biomedical Research Centre, The Royal Marsden and Institute for Cancer Research Biomedical Research Centre.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet, on an open-access basis, meaning it is free to read online.

The story was covered by many UK media outlets and reporting was accurate.

What kind of research was this?

This was a prospective paired cohort trial known as the Prostate MRI Imaging Study (PROMIS), that recruited men with suspected prostate cancer. All the men would previously have been advised to have a prostate biopsy.

Men were each offered two diagnostic tests: the traditional diagnostic test, transrectal ultrasound guided biopsy (TRUS-biopsy) and the new diagnostic test involving multi-parametric magnetic resonance imaging (MP-MRI). The tests were done in addition to a template prostate mapping biopsy (TPM-biopsy). This is a reference standard against which the detection rates of each previous approach could be evaluated.

Because both diagnostic tests were performed on each man participating in the trial, they can be directly compared with the reference standard and the benefits of using both in sequence can be evaluated. Cohort studies provide the best evidence when looking at diagnostic tests.

What did the research involve?

Researchers included 576 men within the UK who had a clinical suspicion of prostate cancer, for example an elevated PSA level (prostate specific antigen – a hormone associated with prostate enlargement) within the previous three months, and had been advised to have a prostate biopsy.

Men first underwent the new diagnostic test – the multi-parametric Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MP-MRI), which provides information on not just tissue anatomy, but also tissue characteristics such as prostate volume.

Men then underwent the traditional transrectal ultrasound-guided prostate biopsy (TRUS-biopsy).

Another test was undertaken just before the traditional TRUS-biopsy in the same procedure under anaesthesia to minimise infection risk: the transperineal template prostate mapping biopsy (TPM-biopsy). This test was undertaken as the standard for comparison as it is highly accurate, although not commonly used as it is thought too invasive for routine use.

Patients and the clinicians undertaking the traditional TRUS-biopsy were unaware of the results of the previous MP-MRI.

What were the basic results?

From the standard comparison test, using the TPM-biospy, 408 of 576 men had cancer with 230 of 576 men having clinically significant cancer.

For clinically significant cancer, the MP-MRI test was more sensitive (93%, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 88% to 96%) than the traditional TRUS-biopsy alone (48%, 95% CI = 42% to 55%).

The negative predictive value was 89% (95% CI = 83% to 94%). This ability for a negative result to rule out disease led to 158 (27%) of 576 men having a negative MP-MRI. Meaning that using MP-MRI might allow 27% of patients to avoid a biopsy at all.

However, the MP-MRI had a specificity of 41% (95% CI = 36% to 46%) compared with the TRUS-biopsy (96%, 95% CI = 94% to 98%). This means that the TRUS biopsy is better at diagnosing whether the people tested have disease or not and therefore is still needed.

This meant that in combination the MRI test followed by the biopsy was almost twice as likely to pick up clinically significant cancer than biopsy alone.

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers conclude that the “TRUS-biopsy performs poorly as a diagnostic test for clinically significant prostate cancer.”

They suggest that “MP-MRI, used as a triage test before first prostate biopsy, could identify a quarter of men who might safely avoid an unnecessary biopsy and might improve the detection of clinically significant cancer.”


Overall, this study provides good evidence that using an MP-MRI test before a biopsy can result in a much lower proportion of men undergoing unnecessary biopsy. The combination helps detect cancer and avoid unnecessary treatment.

However, the lower accuracy of predicting patients without the disease means that patients with a suspicious MP-MRI scan will still need a biopsy. That is because the current results suggest that in cases where the scan gives an “all-clear” there is around a 40% chance that this is actually an incorrect result.

There are, however, a few study limitations:

  • The time lag between tests (with the new diagnostic test occurring first) may have meant the nature of the tumour was slightly different by the time the traditional diagnostic test and the reference tests were undertaken.
  • Men with a prostate over 100ml were excluded which may have affected the proportion of accurate diagnoses.
  • The traditional TRUS-biopsy was performed directly after the TPM-biopsy.
  • The accuracy of the traditional test might have been affected by swelling and tissue disruption caused by the prior biopsy.

Overall, the findings provide a strong argument for recommending MP-MRI scans for all men with a raised PSA level before having a biopsy.

It is reported that NICE are currently considered whether MP-MRI scans should be added to the standard diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Source: NHS Choice

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