Ultimate Nachos with Beer-Braised Carnitas
As far as I’m concerned, there are two types of nachos in this world…
First… the round tortilla chips and bright orange liquid cheese that is served in a plastic container at sporting events. That smell will forever and always remind of going to hockey games with my parents as a kid.
Second… the “gourmet” nachos. They’re the nachos that are found in the appetizer section of a menu at a restaurant with really fantastic food. Those nachos? Also memorable, but for a completely different reason. You’ll usually find those piled high with meats, cheese, beans, onions, and all sorts of toppings. It’s an appetizer of the gods. I’ve had a couple of such nacho platters in the last year or so, and wanted to recreate the same magic at home. Football season seems as good a time as any to undertake such a project, so I gave it a whirl this weekend.
I built these nachos around a beer-braised pork shoulder roast that I put in the slow cooker overnight. I had to take the puppy out around 4:30am and as I walked through the kitchen, I was seriously tempted to open the lid, grab a fork and start tasting. The smell was amazing. My desire for sleep trumped food at that hour, so I held out for the next day.
These nachos are built with layers of the carnitas, black beans, white onion, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses. Once out of the oven, I sprinkled the top with some fresh cilantro and had my favorite salsa and guacamole on hand, along with sour cream and pickled jalapeños for topping. I’d argue that the toppings are just as important as the nacho components themselves, so I highly recommend going all-out with the toppings that you love.
I piled a plate high with nachos and my favorite toppings, then proceeded to plop myself on the couch in front of the TV on Sunday afternoon. This recipe makes enough nachos to feed a crowd, so if you only have a few hungry mouths to feed, you could safely cut this recipe in half. Lucky for us, we had leftovers for Monday Night Football.
What are your favorite nacho components and toppings?
P.S. If you’re looking for an alternative to the pork carnitas, you may want to give these short ribs a try. I’ve made them as tacos and they’re outstanding!
Ultimate Nachos with Beer-Braised Carnitas
Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 12 hours
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 12 hours 30 minutes
A fantastic guide to creating the best nachos – use the beer-braised carnitas or substitute your favorite meats, cheeses and beans.
For the Beer-Braised Carnitas:
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
1½ teaspoons cumin
1½ teaspoons onion powder
1½ teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 to 5 pounds boneless pork shoulder roast, cut into 2-inch chunks
12 ounces beer
For the Nachos:
3 (9-ounce) bags tortilla chips
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 large white onion, chopped
24 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
24 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1. Make the Beer-Braised Carnitas: In a small bowl, whisk together the salt, smoked paprika, cumin, onion powder, chili powder, garlic powder and black pepper; set aside.
2. Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large cast iron skillet. Sear the pork roast on all sides until golden brown (about 2 minutes per side). Transfer the pork roast to a slow cooker and sprinkle the seasoning mixture evenly all over, then pour the beer over the pork. Cook on low for 10 to 12 hours, turning and rotating the pork roast a couple of times if possible.
3. Once finished cooking, shred the pork with two forks, then leave in the slow cooker on warm before serving. The carnitas can be made up to three days in advance. Reheat in a covered pot with ½ cup water, adding more water if needed to keep pork moist.
4. Assemble & Bake the Nachos: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two large rimmed baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray.
5. Dividing evenly between the baking sheets, layer the tortilla chips, carnitas, black beans, onion and shredded cheese, repeating the layers twice more, gradually building up a mound in the center as you go. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and serve with desired toppings.