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

The Surprisingly Easy Way to Make Your Own Hot Sauce

Kate Krader wrote . . . . . .

If you’re like me and determined to cook more in 2017, start with one of the most all-purpose dishes around: hot sauce.

For one thing, who doesn’t love things spicy these days? For another, homemade hot sauce is surprisingly easy to make. And it guarantees you bragging rights. You can give it to others. You can bring it to someone’s house as your contribution to a dinner party. You can put it in your bag and take it on a trip if you’re worried about the food. Make it frequently enough, and you can start customizing it. At the elite spice boutique, La Boîte, Lior Lev Sercarz will customize a spice blend for you for $5,000. I love that idea, but a hot sauce all your own is a much cheaper way to have a signature flavor.

The recipe below is adapted from the Red Rooster Cookbook by Marcus Samuelsson, based on dishes from his buzzy Harlem restaurant. It’s all-purpose, spicy, and a little fruity and vinegary. My adaptations included using easier-to-find chilies such as serranos in place of bird chilies, and tomato paste instead of tomato powder, which I’m not inclined to make or search for.

In my opinion, it could be even spicier; next time, I’m trying the hotter alternative. I may even add some of the chili seeds, which would amp up the heat. However you tweak it, remember to be careful when dealing with spicy chilies: Some recipes recommend wearing gloves when you work with them, which I think is cumbersome, not to mention a little lame. But wash your hands well after chopping the chiles because the burning sensation if you touch your eyes, or even your skin, is fast and furious and persistent.

If making hot sauce is not on your list of things to do, here’s Plan B: Check out Heatonist, where self-anointed hot sauce sommelier Noah Chaimberg sells more than 100 well-curated spicy condiments.

“At first, our neighbors thought it was the most hipster kind of bull—-, a hot sauce store in Williamsburg,” said Chaimberg, who quit a job with global marketing agency Razorfish, where he’d worked with such companies as Mercedes-Benz and Uniqlo and learned valuable lessons for starting his own brand. He opened the small storefront Heatonist a year ago. “Now those neighbors tell me they wouldn’t buy hot sauce anywhere else.”

He mail-orders sauces to customers all over the world. Surprisingly, a lot of orders come from Scandinavia, and he’s seen a big increase in orders from southern Europe, including Greece and Spain. Most of the sauces Chaimberg sells are small-batch, with cute stories behind them: the brothers from the Bahamas who couldn’t find their hometown sauce, so they made the spicy Pirate’s Lantern; the farmer in Hyogo, Japan (near beef mecca Kobe), who smokes his habanero chilies for three days to make Heaven Most Hot. Most sauces cost around $12.

The most expensive is also the hottest: the Reaper, at $50, is packed with fresh Carolina Reapers and was dubbed hottest on the Scoville spectrum by Guinness World Records. If you’ve heard that ghost chilies are killingly spicy, reapers are twice as hot. (Yes, I tasted that hot sauce—still recovering. When my mouth was on fire, Chaimberg didn’t give me water; instead he handed me a spoonful of a creamy, garlicky, sort-of-hot sauce, and it cooled things down.)

Back to my hot sauce resolution: Chaimberg looked at my Red Rooster recipe and said that, of the brands he stocks, Dawson’s Original Hot is the closest. It’s very good, garlicky, and sweet, with a proper mouth-tingling spice. I think mine is better.

Red Rooster Spicy Hot Sauce

Adapted from Red Rooster Cookbook (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), by Marcus Samuelsson


1 red bell pepper
4 serrano or Thai bird chilies, halved, seeded, and finely chopped
1/2 habanero chili, seeded and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 large shallot, coarsely chopped
1 tsp tomato paste or 1 tbsp tomato powder
1 tbsp Berbere spice (Ethiopian chili spice blend) or smoked paprika
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1-1/2 tsp mustard powder
1-1/2 tsp ground cumin
1-1/2 tsp sugar
1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1-1/2 cups olive oil


  1. In a preheated 450°F oven, cook the bell pepper and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet until the pepper is charred all over and the garlic is tender, about 20 minutes; turn the pepper occasionally.
  2. Transfer the pepper to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand for 15 minutes. Peel the garlic.
  3. Remove the roasted pepper’s peel, stem, and seeds and coarsely chop. Put the peppers and any juices from the bowl into a food processor. Add the garlic and all remaining ingredients, except for the olive oil. Process to a coarse purée.
  4. With the machine on, slowly pour in the oil in a slow steady stream, until the hot sauce is smooth. Transfer the hot sauce to jars and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Makes about 4 cups.

Variation: Devil Hot Sauce

For an even spicier sauce, substitute 2 habanero chilies for the red bell pepper and 1/2 habanero; roast them with the garlic. (Seed the habaneros, but don’t peel them.) Use 2 seeded serrano or Thai chilies instead of 4; add 1/4 teaspoon wasabi powder.

Source: Bloomberg

New On-line Recipe Hub Provides Consumers with One-stop-shop for Heart-healthy Solutions

With the holiday season around the corner, the American Heart Association (AHA) is unveiling its first-ever online recipe hub where consumers can search for and bookmark favorite heart-healthy recipes in one simple location. Available in both English and Spanish, the new recipe hub is hosted nationally by Fresh Avocados – Love One Today® and features more than 350 American Heart Association recipes, complete with nutritional information, and more than 100 short videos that highlight cooking techniques, hacks and tips. And this holiday season, the hub can simplify holiday meal planning for friend and family feasts.

“The American Heart Association’s new recipe hub is a great asset for every type of home cook, keeping meal preparation simple, quick and affordable,” said Chef Hamlet Garcia, AHA’s Go Red For Women spokesperson. “With just a simple click of a button, consumers will have heart-healthy meal suggestions and cooking tips ready at their fingertips and just in time for the holidays. No more planning stress.”

The new hub allows users to create personal profiles where they can build customized recipe boxes, find, sort and rate recipes, as well as share tips and recipes via social media. It also offers a sophisticated search capability to find recipes with one’s favorite ingredients or exclude recipes with ingredients that one may be sensitive to or simply dislikes.

“Fresh Avocados – Love One Today® is pleased to host the new recipe hub. Quick and easy access to healthy recipes is key to helping everyone make a commitment to eating better,” said Emiliano Escobedo, Executive Director of the Hass Avocado Board. “Heart-healthy avocado recipes like Avocado Deviled Eggs and Avocado and Shrimp Salad are delicious, easy to prepare and encourage families to add extra fruit and vegetables to their daily diets, especially important during the holiday season.”

The features in the new recipe hub are also supporting the AHA’s Simple Cooking with Heart Program, funded nationally by Walmart Foundation, which focuses on improving nutrition by equipping consumers with cooking skills to cook more often at home. The recipe hub supports AHA’s newest campaign, +color, and provides consumers with another tool to help make smarter, healthier eating choices. The +color initiative emphasizes the focusing on the positive health impact of fruits and vegetables. Heart disease is the number one killer for all Americans and stroke is the fifth leading cause of death. Hispanics and Latinos, however, face even higher risks of cardiovascular disease because of high blood pressure , obesity and diabetes. There is good news in the fact that a few simple lifestyle changes can reduce the chances of getting these diseases, and one of those changes can be as simple as cooking heart healthy recipes.

The hub is located on the American Heart Association’s website, . . . . . .

Source: American Heart Association

More People Are Discovering Savoury Jam + Recipe of Caramelized Red Onion Jam

Sujata Gupta wrote . . . . .

On a blisteringly hot day at the state fairgrounds in Skowhegan, Maine, Kathy Savoie takes some local blueberries and simmers them in a pot.

She adds onions, ginger, vinegar, mustard seeds, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, black pepper and salt. And, later, she drops in some calcium water, pectin and sugar for consistency.

Clearly, what she calls “savory blueberry ginger conserve” is not your grandma’s blueberry jam.

“You take a grilled cheese and then you use some nice local sourdough bread, some nice local cheese and then smear a little bit of savory jam or jelly on there as a spread, and it’s a whole different taste experience,” says Savoie, who is a home food preservation expert at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Falmouth.

So-called “savory jams” are experiencing a surge in popularity. Savory jams overtook Sriracha as the fastest-growing condiment for sandwiches and burgers — with bacon jam leading the pack — in 2015, according to Datassential, a market research company that studies menu trends. Tomato jam — aka classy ketchup — came in second.

Jams made with peppers of all degrees of hotness, flowers and extracts of things like Earl Gray tea and parsley are also growing in popularity.

When it comes to today’s jams, says Marissa McClellan, author of the new cookbook Naturally Sweet Food in Jars, “You have to think beyond toast.”

Savory jams have a lot of things going for them in the current foodie landscape, says jam maker Savoie. Savoie gave the blueberry ginger conserve cooking demonstration at this year’s Kneading Conference in July.

Savory jams allow people to eat local fruits and vegetables year-round and lower the sugar levels found in traditional jams, Savoie says. They also tap into a love affair with foods that marry salt and sugar, says Bret Thorn, senior food editor at Nations Restaurant News in New York City.

The central component of jam is pectin, a natural thickening agent found in many fruits. Traditionally, jam was made by cooking down sugar and fruit. Pectins in the fruit would mix with the sugar, causing a gel to form. Typical jam recipes start with about eight cups of fruit and six cups of sugar, which becomes about 67 percent sugar by weight when cooked down.

“It’s a lot of sugar,” says Elizabeth Andress, director of the National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia in Athens.

In the early 1900s, it became possible to buy pectin from the grocery store. But those pectins were still loaded with sugar. Many years later, in the 1980s, some companies introduced sugar-free pectins that promoted gelling with chemicals like calcium. Jam makers could now attain a jam-like consistency — but with considerably less sugar.

Meanwhile, in France, chefs ushered in today’s sweet-savory frenzy with the introduction of salted caramels. Jam would never be the same.

By the 1990s, franchises started rolling out unusual jam flavors — like Chevys Fresh Mex’s jalapeño jelly and La Madeleine’s onion marmalade.

Now, examples of avant-garde jams abound. At Baltimore Maryland’s Blacksauce Kitchen, for instance, a mobile food and catering business dedicated to all things biscuit, owner Damian Mosley wanted to extend the life of his seasonal rhubarb supply while staying true to his BBQ roots.

“I decided one day to see what would happen when I smoked a boxful of rhubarb and turned it into jam,” Mosley says. “Much to my amazement, it held onto the smoke.”

But what makes a jam a jam? Perhaps the most straightforward definition comes from Thorn. “Just cook something down with sugar, add some pectin, and boom!” says Thorn. “Jam.”

But others believe that a proper jam must also be preserved or canned. “People tend to call anything that’s just a thickened spread a jam,” says Andress. Nobody, for instance, advertises a sandwich with a slathering of “onion sludge.”

The issue is more than semantic. Reducing sugar means less gelling and more water, a breeding ground for pathogens such as E. coli and Listeria. Reducing or eliminating fruit, meanwhile, lowers acidity, which can increase the likelihood of botulism, a serious foodborne illness. Preserved jams with a pH higher than 4.6 are not safe for consumption. Andress worries that calling any jam-like spread a jam obscures this crucial safety message.

For jam purists or home cooks keen on preserving the produce from this summer’s bounty, going with an established recipe is the safest bet. But it’s not always desirable to make a savory jam canning-safe by adding excess acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice, because that can lead to the liquid separating from the gel, a condition called weeping.

When canning, Savoie explains, it’s important to listen for the telltale pop, a sign that the canning process has worked. If the process fails, you can repeat the laborious undertaking, or just throw the end result in the fridge and spend the next two weeks slathering it on meat, coupling it with funky cheeses, and handing it out to your neighbors, Savoie says.

Or maybe, go retro, and put it on some toast.

Here’s a recipe for caramelized red onion jam from Marissa McClellan’s cookbook.

Caramelized Red Onion Jam


3 pounds red onions, sliced
1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil, like sunflower or grape seed
1 cup maple sugar
1-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice
2 teaspoons kosher salt


  1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the onions, give them a good stir, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring regularly for 45 to 50 minutes, until the onions reduce and begin to caramelize. Avoid browning or charring the onions. The goal is to let them melt and develop their sugars.
  2. While the onions cook, prepare a boiling water bath canner and 5 jars.
  3. Once the onions have reduced by about half, add the maple sugar and stir well to combine. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly for 3 to 4 minutes, until the sugar begins to smell like it is toasting slightly. Add the vinegar and lemon juice and stir to integrate. It will bubble and sputter at first, take care not to breathe in deeply over the vaporizing vinegar. Reduce the heat back down to medium and add the salt. Let the onions cook until the vinegar reduces to a thick, sticky syrup and the onions have melted further into the liquid, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  4. When the jam is finished, remove the pan from the heat. Funnel the jam into the prepared jars leaving 1/2-inch head space. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Makes 5 jars, 1 cup each.

Source: npr

Book Excerpt: Cook Koeran! A Comic Book with Recipes

The Book

The Recipes

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