It didn't occur to me until I was an adult that there was any other way to make nachos. And I was blown away by the difference between nuking my nachos and baking them in the oven. Texture alone was remarkably improved. No more soggy chips that turned rubbery by the end of the meal. And that says nothing of the wonderful browning of the cheese no microwave ever could achieve.
And it didn't occur to me until this summer that I could take my nacho evolution even further by moving them out of the oven and onto... the grill.
The point of course is not merely to use the grill as an outdoor oven, though in summer sometimes that is justification enough. But rather to use the power of the grill to impart a delicious smokiness to the nachos. And that is why the corn and the steak that eventually land on the nachos first get cooked on the grates.
Of course, nachos are a personal matter. We all have our set of must-have toppings. So use my list as a suggestion and run with the technique.
CORN AND STEAK GRILLED NACHOS
Before turning on the grill, make sure the baking sheet you plan to use fits on it with the lid down. If it doesn't, you can divide the ingredients into multiple smaller pans, even metal cake or pie pans. The smaller pans also can be cooked in batches, if needed.
Start to finish: 45 minutes
3 tablespoons adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle chilies in adobo)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, plus extra
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
9 ounces beef sirloin, thinly sliced (can substitute pre-sliced "stir-fry" beef)
1 ear corn, husked
11-ounce bag corn tortilla chips
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
1/3 cup pepperoncini, stemmed and thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, diced
In a medium bowl, whisk together the adobo sauce, tomato paste, oil, garlic powder and salt. Add the steak and mix to coat thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and up to overnight.
When ready to cook, heat the grill to medium-high.
Rub the corn with a bit of canola oil, then set it on the grill. Cook the corn, turning often, until lightly browned on all sides, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the corn to a plate and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, use an oil-soaked paper towel held with tongs to coat the grill grates with oil. Add the steak and grill for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or to desired doneness. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Leave the grill on, but reduce the heat to low.
Arrange the tortilla chips in an even layer on a rimmed baking. Spread the steak evenly over the chips.
Cut the corn kernels from the cobs. To do this, stand the ear on its wide end, then use a knife to saw down the length of the sides. Scatter the corn kernels over the steak and chips, then scatter the cheese over that. Set the baking sheet on the grill, cover the grill and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
Remove the baking sheet from the grill, then scatter the tomatoes, pepperoncini and diced onion over the other toppings. Serve immediately.
Nutrition information per serving: 520 calories; 290 calories from fat (56 per cent of total calories); 32 g fat (7 g saturated; 1.5 g trans fats); 50 mg cholesterol; 42 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 19 g protein; 890 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch