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Munchies for Drunks: Italian Nachos

I am firm believer that cooking is an ongoing experiment. When I watch cooking shows, or read cookbooks, and am told, ‘Now, make SURE you follow this exactly, because it won’t turn out right if you don’t’, I laugh. Maybe that’s true of baking; after all, nobody wants flat, hard-as-a-rock cookies, or under-done biscuits.

But when it comes to recipes for MEALS? I say experiment constantly. Tweak the recipe. Add what you like, subtract what you don’t. Double it. Triple it. Throw in some wine, some stray herbs, some honey – the sky is the limit. Half the fun of cooking is throwing a bunch of crazy things into the mix and watching it with fingers crossed hoping its edible, or if you ‘re lucky, frickin’ amazing.

Anybody who has ever experimented with cooking while knocking back a few drinks can tell you that some of the most awesome creations are inspired by Dionysus.

You know that feeling you get after you’ve had a few: that warm, smiley moment when you realize that you could really go for stuffing your face. I have the perfect, most amazing dish for that very moment in life. This recipe manages to take munchies, and a full-on meal, and combine them into a perfect specimen with all the fixings.

I’m all for really healthy, fresh, raw-as-possible foods. I try to eat as healthily as I can (which in reality probably isn’t close to as much as I should) but I do believe that you should take time out to enjoy really sinful, incredible food in moderation occasionally. All the better if you’re drunk. The following recipe is perfect drunk food. It’s got everything – cheesiness, savory and spicy, a little sweetness, crunch-factor, and just enough veggies to justify it as a meal. And the best part? It’s nachos for crying out loud – you’d have to be very plastered indeed to mess this up.

Sometimes when you’ve had a few it can be hard to decide what you’re in the mood for. This combines a host of flavors so no decision making required. Who doesn’t love Italian food? And who doesn’t love Mexican food? Mexican is my favorite ethnic cuisine and always has been. Not to mention that I’m Italian…so to me, the fusing of these two can only result in deliciousness. Yes, it is so.

Italian Nachos aren’t a new concept. But I’ve noticed that a lot of recipes call for won ton sheets, torn and fried in oil as the ‘chips’. While I’m sure that’s delicious, it sounded pretty unhealthy, greasy, and like a lot of work. I knew that Tostitos used to make a flour chip, but after a fruitless search, figured that apparently they’ve been discontinued. As a substitute, I used multigrain spelt tortilla chips, from the organic brand Garden of Eatin’ – they worked perfectly.

Don’t skimp on any of these ingredients – they all meld together to make such perfection that a single tear may trickle down your face if you leave even one out.

Italian Nachos ala Teeray!

1/2 red onion, cut into strips
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into strips
4 button or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
4-5 small black olives, chopped (you can also use a can of black olives, if you wish)
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1/2 can fire roasted tomatoes
Handful assorted lettuce (I like arugula and romaine), or spinach leaves, washed and torn
1 stalk scallion, sliced
1/2 package Morningstar sausage grounds (I realize not everyone is a vegetarian – feel free to use sweet and spicy ground sausage if you wish)
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup 2% milk
Italian cheese blend
1/2 tsp honey
dash lemon juice
dash white wine
olive oil
2 tsp butter
flour
basil pesto
crushed red pepper
nutmeg
1 package multigrain tortilla chips

1. In a medium sized skillet set on medium high, heat 1 tsp butter until melted, add onions and pepper strips. Saute for about a minute, add honey, then reduce heat to medium low. Saute until onions are light brown and caramelized.

2. In a medium sized saucepan, heat olive oil on medium high, then add sausage, mushrooms, and olives. Cook together until well heated and for the flavors to incorporate. Add a dash of red pepper; remove from heat.

3. In a small saucepan, melt 1 tsp butter and add garlic. Saute on medium heat until garlic has softened, then add a couple of pinches of flour. Stir to incoporate (mixture will form a doughy liquid that Paula would call a ‘roux’), then add dash of white wine to deglaze. Add stock and milk, stir to blend. Reduce heat to medium low. When the mixture reaches a simmer, add a dash of lemon juice and a dash of nutmeg, then reduce heat to low. If you want your white sauce to have a cheese flavor, add a small handful of cheee and stir to melt at this time. Keep on low heat so sauce doesn’t congeal.

4. In another saucepan, add 1/2 can fire roasted tomatoes and heat until hot enough to serve.

5. Now its time to assemble your nachos. On a plate, place the chips in an even layer. Add the sausage and vegetable mixture first, then top with the white sauce. Don’t be shy with it – the more you add, the yummier it is. Then add the caramelized onions and peppers, followed by the fire roasted tomatoes (a little of these goes a long way). Next drizzle pesto over; as much as you prefer according to your tastes. Top with a good handful of cheese. Pop nachos under a broiler until cheese is melted and chips are toasty.

6. Top nachos with chives and torn lettuce or spinach. Serve while hot.

You’ll want to eat these with a fork nearby! Spillage is mandatory, and you won’t want any to go to waste. These are seriously the best nachos I have ever had. My husband said the same thing, and he’s an extremely picky eater who usually hates my food. Would we lie to you?

I had a lot of cheese sauce and sausage mixture left over, so I used them the next day to make breakfast burritos, the perfect hangover cure. Just goes to show you, being innovative pays off! That’s one idea turned into two different meals. Happy drinking and noshing, ladies!

Photo courtesy stock.xching.com

By Teri Drake-Floyd

An almost 30-something synestheste, foodie, genealogist and all around proud geek.

4 replies on “Munchies for Drunks: Italian Nachos”

Oh my goodness–these look like heaven. I recently had Italian nachos for the first time at a restaurant, and they were made using the fried wonton strips. I thought they were good, but frankly, I could just feel the grease settling into my stomach at just a pinch over my normal tolerance-for-grease level. These sound like the perfect combination of cheesy/meaty goodness and vegetables.

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