Super Nachos

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6

In downtown Los Angeles, chef Josef Centeno serves these superlative nachos at his bar and restaurant, Bar Amá. Though the recipe involves several steps, you and your guests will be rewarded with an inventive dish that adds a few unexpected twists to the usual Tex-Mex favorite. You will have enough of both the salmorejo salsa and avocado salsa left over to make Bar Amá’s taquitos as well, but you can also serve both of the leftover salsas with tortilla chips for dipping or dollop them on top of any of your favorite Tex-Mex dishes.

Ingredients:

For the salmorejo salsa:

  • 1 lb. (500 g) plum tomatoes
  • 1 white onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup (1/3 oz./10 g) finely minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbs. seeded and finely minced serrano chile
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more, to taste


For the avocado salsa:

  • 2 firm but ripe Hass avocados
  • 1 serrano chile
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more, to taste


For the queso:

  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) whole milk, warmed
  • 1 cup (4 oz./125 g) grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (4 oz./125 g) grated Monterey jack cheese
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more as needed


For assembling the nachos:

  • 8 cups tortilla chips (about 12 oz./375 g)
  • 2 Tbs. crema or sour cream
  • 2 Tbs. crumbled cotija cheese
  • 2 tsp. minced white onion
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh cilantro
  • 3 radishes, trimmed and julienned
  • 2 Tbs. pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 Tbs. pomegranate seeds (optional)

Directions:

To make the salmorejo salsa, slice the tomatoes in half through the stem end. Working with one tomato half at a time, use the large holes of a box grater to grate the cut side of the tomato into a bowl, stopping once you reach the skin. Discard the skin. Grate the onion into the same bowl in the same manner, stopping once you reach the root end. Grate the garlic cloves into the same bowl. Add the lime juice, cilantro, chile and salt to the bowl and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt if needed. Set aside.

To make the avocado salsa, combine the avocados, chile, lime juice, cilantro and 1 tsp. salt in a blender and puree until smooth. Taste and add more salt if desired.

To make the queso, in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour is thoroughly incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming, slowly add the milk. Once all the milk has been added, continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil. While the milk is heating, in a large bowl, combine the cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses and the cornstarch and toss to combine.

Once the milk reaches a boil, immediately reduce the heat to low and slowly add the cheese mixture, one handful at a time and stirring after each addition, waiting until the cheese is completely melted before adding more cheese. Once all the cheese has been added, stir in the salt. Taste and season with more salt if necessary. Pour the queso through a fine-mesh sieve set over a clean bowl.

Arrange half of the tortilla chips on a large platter and drizzle evenly with half of the queso. Arrange the remaining chips on top and drizzle with the remaining queso. Spoon 1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g) of the salmorejo salsa evenly on top, followed by 1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g) of the avocado salsa and the crema. Sprinkle evenly with the cotija cheese, onion, and cilantro. Finish by sprinkling with the radish, pepitas and pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Bar Amá, Los Angeles, CA