I’m currently in a swarm of many behind-the-scenes things that I genuinely couldn’t be happier about even if it would also be okay if they didn’t all fall in the next few weeks (the deadline on the next cookbook, the launch at-last-so-overdue-hooray site redesign, a hopefully very cool new project or two, the first birthday of this fiesty love, all of the end of the year chaos that comes with a school-aged kid), that if there were a textbook definition of Bad Times To Take a Vacation, my June might be under it. Thank goodness I am not married to anyone burdened by such trivialities. Thus last weekend, when he surprised me with a birthday weekend away in Mexico City, a place I’ve been telling him I wanting to go to for the better part of a decade, but briefly expressed concern that this wasn’t the “best” time to get away, I was like “SHUT UP WHICH AIRPORT I ALREADY CALLED AN UBER.” The more dramatic the mess, the more dramatic the escape hatch required, right?
But seriously: Maybe this could be a new life rule. Because of instead of working bleary-eyed through the weekend and diligently ignoring the big birthday in the middle of it, I sipped mezcal, ate all the tacos (also panuchos, tostatas, flautas), the actual nectar of the gods (not just a saying, apparently), ate fruit in every color of the rainbow, wandered old streets, saw ancient ruins, and ate a tlacoyo that had been kneaded from blue corn masa right in front of me minutes before, and was back in time to take the kid to school and resume my chaos exactly where I left it on Tuesday morning. I’m a lucky, lucky human.
This is where I’m supposed to recreate the pulpo tostata that might have alone been worth the airfare. We should really talk about the thin, red sopas you’d finish with lime, the salsas at all of the taco stands (no two alike and all less about screaming heat than they are about nuanced flavor), the way the guys throw corn tortillas all over the simmering meat and then one by one, use them to scoop it up, creating a glorious mess that you do not dare ask for a fork to eat, the perfect margarita, why aguachiles should be everyone’s new summer dish, plus all of the glorious intersections of eggs, tortillas, avocados and chile sauces, i.e. my happiest food place. This is not the time to talk about hopelessly inauthentic foods such as tortilla chips and cemented with cheese but I fear a weekend in the motherland did nothing to cure me of my craving for weeknight nachos, and thus they happened here first.
You could argue that adding vegetables, seasonal vegetables like blistered sweet corn and charred poblano, no less, to nachos is a violation of the central tenets of baking chips with cheese — i.e. never healthy, never sober. But I’ve been trying to figure out how to pass nachos off for dinner for most of my adult life and if two vegetables and a lot of fresh, salad-y toppings does the trick, if this means we get to have more nachos in our life, and not just at 2am before the regret sets in, well, I think we all win.
Notes From a Weekend In Mexico City: Where we ate and what we did, plus a few tips. Hope you find it helpful. (You should go!)
One year ago: Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Pie
Two years ago: Valerie’s French Chocolate Cake
Three years ago: Bowties with Sugar Snaps, Lemon and Ricotta
Four years ago: Chocolate Swirl Buns
Five years ago: Rich Homemade Ricotta
Six years ago: Crushed Peas with Smoky Sesame Dressing and Chocolate Doughnut Holes
Seven years ago: Pickled Sugar Snap Peas, Springy Fluffy Marshmallows and Spanikopita Triangles
Eight years ago: Dead Simple Slaw + 6 Heat Wave Reprieves and Pistachio Petit-Four Cake
Nine years ago: Strawberry Tart
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Eggnog Waffles + A Few Favorite Things
1.5 Years Ago: Jelly Doughnuts and Endives with Oranges and Almonds
2.5 Years Ago: Eggnog Florentines and Linzer Torte
3.5 Years Ago: Cashew Butter Balls
4.5 Years Ago: Peppermint Hot Fudge Sauce
Corn and Black Bean Weeknight Nachos
Serves 4 but I won’t tell anyone if 3 of you polish it off
2 ears corn, husked
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 large poblano
Nonstick spray or 2 teaspoons oil
2 generous cups (about 8 ounces) coarsely grated monterey jack cheese
2 generous cups (about 8 ounces) coarsely grated cheddar cheese
1 12-ounce bag tortilla chips, the thicker the better
Thinly sliced jalapeno (1 used 1/2 a big one)
Thinly sliced radishes (I used 2 medium)
1/2 a white onion, minced (you can toss it with a little lime juice and salt to lightly pickle it, if desired)
Handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Over a gas flame or on a grill over high heat, char corn all over until at least half the kernels are blistered, and poblano until skin is blackened. Let both cool slightly then cut the corn kernels from the cob. Remove the skin and seeds from the poblano and cut it into very thin ribbons. (For a large one, you might only use half.)
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat your largest baking sheet with foil (which I did not, and wish I had) and lightly coat it with oil. Arrange 1/3 of chips on tray and sprinkle 1/3 of corn, black beans, poblano strips and cheese over it. Repeat twice. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese has melted and blistered all over. Use this time to prep your toppings.
When nachos are cooked, you can sprinkle a few toppings over (I used the jalapenos, radishes, tomatoes, onion, cilantro and avocado) or just bring everything to the table and let everyone fix their own.