Last month was interesting, right? Everyone nailed their dishes and you — our beloved fans — gushed. At the end of the day, we slapped one another on the butts and moved on. No one tweeted to me about my terrible ingredient choices, wrote microfiction about Vince, or riffed on Zach’s love for sous vide in comments for a random post. There were few burns to be had; three great chilis led to no heat.
Sure, sure, it was cool to see three people cook well all at once, but it certainly wasn’t the most thrilling entry in the series.
- No Vince-the-foodie-cool-kid making a fatal error because of his colorblindness (and essential confusion over what the hell “stew” is)?
- No Zach-the-experienced-chef regaling us with tall tales of eating grunions on a catamaran in Mexico?
- No Steve-the-culinary-try-hard adding ginger ale and a handful of Sour Warheads to his bubbling pot?
Screeeeeew that. What joy is there, without mistakes for you to tease? What fun is cooking well if a fellow chef isn’t getting shredded? This is cooking battle, not cooking friends. The burns are half the fun. Maybe all the fun, for those of you who can’t actually taste what we prepare.
Well good news, pals: It’s February and the lovefest is officially over. We all got a little weird on this one. We swung for the fences. We made mistakes. We teased one another’s techniques, ingredients, and distant relatives. We piled it on — both with our dishes (none of us made “minimalist nachos”) and with the criticism.
No more talk, it’s game time! Tear into us, then tear into these three Super Bowl nachos!
BLT Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
Mac & Cheese Showdown — 1) Vince 2) (tie) Zach, Steve
Taco Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Winter Stew Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince
Date Night Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve
Pasta Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Hot Beef Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve
Shellfish Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
BBQ Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Pumpkin Spice Showdown — 1) (tie) Vince, Zach 2) Steve
Thanksgiving Side Dish Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Steve 3) Zach
Christmas Dessert Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Vince 3) Zach
Chili Cook-off Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince
We’re giving three points to the winner and one to second place for each round. As it stands, the score is:
STEVE’S MODIFIED “NACHO BELL GRANDE”
Once upon a time, there was a high school senior named Steve Bramucci. He dyed his hair bottle blond, wore a puka shell necklace, and shopped at J.Crew. He owned a cherry red Honda Prelude and spent money in all of the ways a 17-year-old might consider “lavish.”
To afford this lifestyle, Steve imported fake Oakley sunglasses from Mexico to Portland (OR) and sold them as real to high school freshman throughout the city. In 1997, this was a very profitable racket. Besides the bucketloads of money, Steve finally felt cool. He scoured his Italian family tree to find someone connected to La Cosa Nostra, he quoted Scarface and hung out at Zumiez, if anyone questioned where the glasses came from he said they “fell off a truck” in order to play coy (though, in retrospect, the fact that a high schooler had figured out a way to ship massive boxes of copyright-infringing sunglasses into the U.S. would have been a much better story).
During this time, Steve went to a lot of parties. And at these parties, when he got hungry, he and some friends would inevitably run to Taco Bell. It is impossible to exaggerate just how hard Taco Bell crushed it in the 90s. Then Steve, always longing to seem impressive, would buy a two dozen Nacho Bell Grandes for the whole gang to enjoy. Envision the sort of kid who would think that was the ultimate baller gesture and you will understand our author like never before.
So much has changed in the interceding years. But damn if I’m not still in love with Nachos Bell Grande. Here’s my riff:
Vince teases my “meat slurries” but there are few things I cook that I’m so proud of. Ground beef lends itself to mangable bites, is easy to scoop, and holds flavor like nobody’s business.
For this play on T-Bell, I used one pound of 80/20 ground beef and a half pound of pork. I laid that down on a base of de-seeded New Mexico chilies, garlic, onions, and fresh poblanos. For some reason, I have slowly grown to loathe bell peppers, but I absolutely love poblanos.
After searing the meat, I add spices:
- 1 can of storebought enchilada sauce.
- 1 packet of storebought taco powder.
- Two shakes of cumin.
- Two shakes of fish sauce.
- A pinch of MSG.
- Salt and pepper.
We don’t have to go much further before I call out the fact that this is the most I’ve ever used pre-packaged ingredients. Guilty as charged. It’s nachos, baby, the rules are dead.
Salsa: I am pretty in love with Taco Bell’s salsa. So much so that I actually put it on my “20 Hot Sauces You Should Own” list. But in the end, I decided to serve a legit salsa — something bright and fresh enough to even out the richness of the pork and cheese.
This is wildly simple and dead solid perfect:
- Cherry tomatoes (for the sweetness).
- Raw garlic.
- Raw onions.
- Salt and pepper.
- One fresh red pepper (with seeds).
- One dried red pepper (half de-seeded).
I blended it but left it at the rough chop stage. Salt and pepper to taste.