No meat, sloppy mess … these sad nachos look like a toddler went through a salad buffet with a rake. Don’t make these for your party! (DDH photo: Alan Clemons)
With babies and octogenarians stocking up on everything needed for The Big Game! this weekend, it’s definitely time to take a look at one of the most popular snacks for football games ever in the history of the world.
No, not Doritos, although those are among my favorites. Maybe my No. 1 favorite snack. Love ‘em.
I’m talking about nachos — that often superbly created and sometimes horribly designed snack for football parties and summer shindigs.
Making the best nachos comes with practice and careful thought, similar to going to the shooting range when you’re learning how to sight in a rifle scope. You don’t just show up the first time and hit a bull’s eye right off the bat. Nor will all of your nacho creations look or be fantastic.
Some will, of course, and especially so after you’ve perfected the process. Others may look like a group of third graders were given Red Bull and watched a movie about Jackson Pollock’s art before being given brushes and cans of paint. Your nachos may appear like the photo above — an ugly mess that just screams for a sad trombone.
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The cool thing about nachos is that you can add or omit whatever you prefer. Don’t like jalops or spicy stuff? Put it on the side in a bowl for optional adding. Tomatoes at the local grocer not fresh enough? Use canned. Venison? Duck? Fish? Yep, your imagination can run wild.
But in the end, you don’t want a big plate of soggy chips and nasty flavors. Good nachos should have some texture with the bite, a nice crunch of a chip along with a mini-burst or two that makes you say, “Mmmm, these are good.”
And then you scream “Fire! Sasquatch!” and grab the bowl to go hide and gorge on them by yourself. No? No gorging? Ok, but you could, y’know. A good host will have more nachos.
Use fresh ingredients when possible to improve the flavors of your food.
What are some of the worst things about bad nachos? Glad you asked. Here are mine:
1. Soggy chips. Yuck.
2. No flavor. Where’s the “Mmmmm!” moment?
3. No spicy kick. If I wanted oatmeal I’d have asked for a bowl of farina or steel ground oats.
4. You used Velveeta “cheese.” C’mon, dude, get some real cheddar or at least the shredded cheddar in a bag. That yellow hunk of whatever? Ugh.
5. Make your own guacamole. It’s easy to make.
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Instead of having sucky nachos, here are some ways you can create the best venison nachos for your parties this year:
Use Ground Venison
What a great way to enjoy your deer season success! Brown the ground venison, maybe with a little chili powder, crushed red pepper flakes or whatever spices you prefer. You don’t have to mask the venison flavor but it shouldn’t be bland, either. Drain if necessary, although unlikely since ground venison is lean and nutritious.
For a different offering, slow-cook your venison in the smoker or slow-cooker and then pull and chop. Instead of ground meat you’ll have more texture and a bolder flavor. Smoke a shoulder or pop a roast in the cooker. It takes a little more time but can be that, “Wow, did you try his nachos with that awesome venison?” moment.
Mmmm … slow-cooked venison is great for your nachos as a new twist!
Use Good Chips
We’ve all seen thin chips that break and can’t support a good scoop of meat, beans and guac, thus leaving a mess. And we’ve seen chips that you could stack and fuse together to create a hockey puck. Neither are good for nachos, which require a corn chip — corn has more dippin’ stability — that isn’t too thin or too thick, has a good crunch and will have some flavor. Personally, I like Tostitos Scoops for dipping and regular Tostitos for a platter.
Fresh, Fresh, Fresh
Your fixings will be enjoyed more if you use fresh items: onion, peppers, lettuce, the best tomatoes you can find, good cheese you grate yourself, maybe some cool upkicks like roasted poblano peppers and some of Uncle Ty’s hot salsa.
If you’re having a party for family and friends, don’t skimp on crappy stuff just to save a few bucks. Go all out with fresh ingredients (and good beer), and really make it a good party. No sad trombones, please. Be sure to drain anything well, too, so you don’t have a lot of juices turning it all into a gloppy mess.
I prefer a nice dice on my onions and tomatoes, and for my pico. I don’t want giant chunks of anything that hits me upside the head with a bite. Giant onion bite this time, next time I get a hunk of jalop or garlic, and the third bite I’m eating tomato soup. Please dice. Don’t chunk. If you’re using jalapenos, remove the seeds to avoid the fire or leave them in (but tell your guests). And if you’re using cilantro, remember that a little can go a long way. Start small and add more if need be, but remember that you can’t remove an entire bunch of chopped cilantro once you toss it in.
You Know I’m All About That Bake
Once you get your chips, venison, black or refried beans, perhaps, layered on, then add the cheese. Do another layer of chips, meat, beans and cheese, then another if you’re making a big tower of nachos, and then top with more cheese.
Pop it into the oven on the broiler setting for a few minutes to melt the cheese. Then add your fresh ingredients — the tomatoes, lettuce, onions — after removing from the oven.
Add your pico de gallo, fresh goodies and then enjoy.
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