Ultimate Carnitas Nachos

by Food Hound on October 29, 2013

in Appetizers, Main Dishes, Meat

Post image for Ultimate Carnitas Nachos

If you are a sports widow like me, you know ESPN’s famous catch phrase to describe the most sporting-event-dense month of the year:

‘There is only one October.’

October is the most stupendous month of the year for sports fans, and the most expendable month of the year for everyone else (except maybe vampires and people who make really Pinterest-y Halloween costumes).  It’s the month of baseball playoffs + NFL regular season + college football + the start of the NHL season.  Maybe your spouse isn’t into all of these sports, but mine is.  AND the Red Sox are in the World Series.  AND our college teams seem to be doing well.  AND the Booze Hound has a non-sexual (I think/hope/wonder?) perma-crush on Tom Brady.  AND the Bruins went to the Stanley Cup last year, so they’re getting a decent amount of televised games.

Someone rescue me.

Actually, I need to be fair.  For a sports fanatic, the Booze Hound is a really reasonable one.  I’m not saying that there haven’t been holes punched in dry wall after losses during the course of his life, but he’s reasonable in how he allocates his sports time.  Not all games need to be watched live. (God bless DVR.) We have an agreement that only one weekend day can be scheduled around a sporting event.  When there are game-free nights, we can watch whatever I want to watch, even if it’s a foreign film with subtitles.  I am permitted to speak to him and ask questions when his team is on the field/ice.  He and our little one have their very own home run/touchdown/goal dance, which basically just consists of running around with their shirts rolled up because she’s a toddler, but whatever, it’s freaking adorable.

So… just to make October fun for both of us, I’ve taken the concept of ‘there’s only one October’ and applied to my favorite sports-watching food… brilliant!!  Bruins are on the ice?  It’s BBQ Chicken Dip o’clock.  Pats are losing?  I’m siphoning a pitcher of Classic  (Best?) Margaritas into the Booze Hound’s (and then my own) mouth to ease the pain/help me cope with him.  And when your team is in the World Series, you better be breaking out your best nachos.  Ultimate Carnitas Nachos.

I’m going out on a limb to say that there are few things more disappointing than disappointing nachos.  You can make them look super-pretty with a huge pile of goodies on top, but if I’m left with a soggy top layer or, *worse*, a naked bottom layer of chips, it just makes me sad.  And then it just makes me mad.  Nachos are America’s sweetheart of sport foods- standards are high, and they have to deliver.

I’ve spent seven Octobers perfecting my nachos, and I think I have the winner.  They’re basic, but they have mass quantities of alllllll the stuff we want, like meat and cheese.  Make ’em your own with crazy toppings after they come out of the oven, but they’re kick-ass as is, too.  The key is that every layer of chips gets the star treatment with all the ingredients, so no chip is left behind in a topless state (scandi!), which is the ultimate nacho offense.  I’m totally in love with carnitas as my meat of choice for nachos, followed very closely by chili.  If you’ve never made carnitas, try this version.  I am usually not a fan of things that get translated from braising in the oven to cooking in the slow cooker, but these are a fabulous exception.  Abuela might not be thrilled with the idea, but feed her these nachos and she’ll change her tune.

Though I believe that these nachos have magical powers, I need to state a disclaimer that they do not guarantee a win.  If they did, I would single-handedly support a pork commune and make them for every game, rain or shine.  Sometimes the sports gods smile on you (the Red Sox ’04 World Series win to reverse the Curse of the Bambino) and sometimes they do not (the Patriots lose the Super Bowl two days after we get home from the hospital with the wee babe… that gave me two crying infants to care for.  Awesome.).  But for those of us attached to someone who truly inspires the phrase ‘fan is short for fanatic,’ a hot, sexy, inappropriately cheesy plate of Ultimate Carnitas Nachos makes October, and every other month of baseball/hockey/football/golf/basketball/shuffleboard season way, way more awesome.

Oh, and GO SOX!

Ultimate Carnitas Nachos
Carnitas adapted from Simply Scratch (original source: Melissa d'Arabian from Food Network)
Serves: 6-8
  • Pork Carnitas
  • 4 lbs pork shoulder
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 orange
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 whole jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 4 Tbsp bacon fat or vegetable oil
  • Nachos
  • 1 16-oz bag tortilla chips (use a sturdy chip- I like Garden of Eatin')
  • ½ recipe pork carnitas OR 1-1.5 lbs pulled pork from your fave BBQ place
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1.5 lbs shredded cheese (I use a blend of cheddar and jack)
  • ½ c chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 4 oz cotija cheese (optional, but recommended)
  • Required toppings: guacamole, salsa or pico de gallo, and sour cream
  1. Generously season pork shoulder with salt and pepper.
  2. In a small bowl combine the olive oil with the cumin and oregano. Rub the oil mixture all over the pork shoulder and place in slow cooker. Top with the chopped onion, jalapeno, garlic. Squeeze in the juice of the orange and toss the orange halves into the slow cooker.
  3. Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8-10.
  4. One the meat is tender, remove the pork shoulder and shred in a large bowl with two forks. Strain the liquid from the slow cooker if you want to save it to drizzle over the pork or if you want to make a KILLER roast pork au jus sandwich with the carnitas you don't use for the nachos. Otherwise, discard the cooking liquid.
  5. Heat up a large skillet with 2 Tbsp of the bacon fat or oil. Once hot, brown half of the shredded pork (or maybe even a third of the pork if you have a small skillet- you want it to crisp nicely, so don't crowd the pan!). Remove to a paper towel-line plate, and repeat with the rest of the bacon fat/oil and pork. While still hot, season pork to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  6. Preheat oven to 350°.
  7. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the chips in a single layer on the sheet.*** Top in the following order: chips, carnitas (remember- you only need half the carnitas recipe), beans, onion, and shredded cheese.
  8. ***The key to great nachos is the architecture. You need to make sure each chip is smothered in meat, beans, onion, and cheese. If you are using a smaller baking sheet, you need to make multiple layers of nachos on that sheet and not just pile everything on at once. Top each layer with an equal amount of meat, beans, onion, and cheese.
  9. Bake until cheese is melted, 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle with cotija cheese and cilantro. Serve with required/desired toppings.
So many of these steps are make-ahead, so it's a really, really easy entertaining dish! First, you can make the carnitas up to three days ahead of time and keep in the fridge (wait to brown them in the bacon fat till you're ready to use them, though), OR you can be super-lazy, like me, and freeze them. Since the carnitas recipe makes enough for TWO nacho recipes, freezing the half you're not using is a great idea. Just defrost in the fridge and brown them in the fat just before you're ready to use them. All you need to do on game day is brown the carnitas, layer the nachos, and bake.



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