Behold the nacho. Even in its simplest form (cheddar blend dumped on stale chips and microwaved late-night, most likely while intoxicated) nachos are still one of the most delicious snack foods known to (wo)man. And even though everyone on your Pinterest feed is making foods decorated to resemble tiny footballs this Super Bowl Sunday, you should be making nachos. Great nachos. And who better to share the gospel with us than Ben Jacobs, co-founder of Tocabe, an American Indian eatery.
Tocabe’s Medicine Wheel Nachos have been on the menu since day one. No, nachos are not a traditional Native American food, but the restaurant uses chips that incorporate four types of corn (red, yellow, white, and blue), all of which were cultivated by indigenous peoples. In fact, the significance of these colors runs deep: The nachos take their name from the Medicine Wheel, a traditional symbol that represents the four directions of life and happens to feature the same four colors (blue corn stood in for black).
In honor of the Broncos’ big game this Sunday, we asked Jacobs to share his four directions for nacho greatness. He was even nice enough to share a delicious seasonal butternut squash relish with us. Read on to take your nacho game to the next level.
1. Nachos are a beautiful (and gluten-free) canvas
With Tocabe’s Chipotle-esque roster of pick-your-own meats, toppings, and salsas, nachos were a smart choice for the menu. “We have all these ingredients and combinations, and nachos are a great base.” They’re also a smart choice for your Super Bowl party: Whether you’re roasting carnitas, sautéeing a pack of ground beef, or simply using a drained can of black beans, you can make your version at home with whatever you like and accommodate a range of diets and tastes.
2. Make every chip count
We’ve all been victims of sub-par nachos. You know the ones I’m talking about: a few loaded chips surrounded by a bunch of sad, naked ones. “I hate that, when you’re pulling a bag of plain chips off the plate,” says Jacobs. “We try and do ours where every chip is a good one, with meat and stuff on every bite.” To achieve nacho nirvana, be sure to layer your chips, cheese, and toppings.
3. Pile out, not up
The key to having not-sad chips is all in how you build it. At Tocabe, that means spreading everything out wide. “Toppings get sprinkled on from high for even distribution,” says Jacobs. Our pick for composing the perfect tray of nachos at home? A cookie sheet.
4. Say cheese
While no one is going to judge you if you use shredded cheese (just please shred your own; most pre-shredded cheeses are coated in anticaking agents that prohibit proper melting), Tocabe ups the ante with a melty, spiced cheese sauce. “We order cheddar cheese in 40-pound blocks and melt it down ourselves with milk. Then we season it with green chiles, chipotles, and some of our hot salsa.” That extra step gives the cheese added flavor, and the liquid texture is perfect for evenly coating chips.
Tocabe’s Butternut Squash Relish
1 medium butternut squash, diced to a ¼ inch
1 red bell pepper, diced to a ¼ inch
1/4 cup red onion, diced to a ¼ inch
1/4 cup scallion, chiffonade
1 small habanero, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
juice of 1 small lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Place butternut squash on a cookie sheet and toss with olive oil. Roast at 450° for 8 minutes to soften, but leave some crunch for texture. Immediately remove squash from baking tray and cool. Once squash has cooled, combine all ingredients and mix. Relish keeps for up to 48 hours.