Cheesy Nachos with Chorizo
Fast but not boring, and a theory on being cool
NOTE: This is a long preamble, so buckle up. If you’re bored, feel free to skip down to the recipe.
Those of you familiar with my barber, Van, know that probably 90% of the reason I go to him is to listen to him talk while he’s cutting my hair. Guy is just fascinating, opining on everything from fashion, to music, to giving George Clooney a hot shave. But — probably because this is how long it takes for him to rotate through all of his clients — he sticks to one topic for about 6-months at a time.
For the last year or so, he’s been on a kick about Boston, and how the city just doesn’t “have it1.” I’ve had the pleasure of listening to him expound on this theory my last few cuts, and I think Van has gotten to the crux of his argument. I’ll try to distill and summarize it here.
Humanity descended from hunters and gathers, and, as we’ve evolved, skewed more heavily toward gathering2. As humans moved further and further away from the equator, it became harder and harder to gather — the abundance of food in warm weather climates3 became much more dispersed and required more work as you went north. This, of course, resulted in a culture in places like Northern Europe that valued hard work, the accumulation and stockpiling of resources, and frugality. Gotta eat and you don’t know where that next meal is coming from!
In the proverbial south, however, hoarding food (and other resources) wasn’t so much an issue. There was bounty everywhere! So, that culture valued less the hard work it took to acquire dinner, and instead, valued the creativity and taste. It didn’t matter how much time you spent picking your berries, it just mattered how fantastic they looked when arranged on a plate. Style represented the pinnacle of social influence.
Now we all know that Boston was settled by Puritans hailing from the harsh English landscape4. They valued hard work and didn’t have time to be fancy5 — they were just trying to survive the winter6! So, as Boston continued to develop and grow as a city, that culture of valuing resources grew with it.
Fast forward to today, where according to Van, there are no cool restaurants, no cool bars, and no cool people in Boston. Why spend $500 on an extravagent omakase dinner when you can spend $10 on Sweetgreen? Why pay $15 for a smoked mezcal cocktail when you can have a $1 Bud Light? Why wait in line in the morning for a kick-ass bagel, when you can just skip breakfast and save a few bucks? That, in Van’s mind, is the problem with Boston.7 It’s why the city, and it’s residents, just don’t have it. They don’t need to: There’s no value to having it!
It’s all interesting stuff — but of course, that’s not why you’re here. You’re here for food. So, let’s make some nachos. This recipe is roughly adapted from a NYTimes “No Recipe” for Chorizo Nachos and is perfect for when you’re so brain dead from thinking about the migration patterns of coolness out of Africa and into Italy11 that you don’t feel like “really” cooking. It’s quick, easy, and delicious. I think even Van might agree that this “has it.”
Start by pre-heating your oven (or toaster) to 400(F). Crumble up some fresh chorizo12 and start cooking in a cast iron pan over medium heat. While that’s browning, dice up an onion. Toss the onion in with the chorizo, and let it cook through until the onions are soft. Remove from the heat and into a bowl.
In a small sauce pan, heat up some cream13 and throw in a boat load of shredded cheese — ideally pepper jack. Whisk that mixture until the cheese melts and you’re left with a nice cheesy sauce. If it’s too thin, you can add some corn starch or flour, in small increments, until the sauce is at your desired thickness.
Now layer some tortilla chips at the bottom of the cast iron pan you used for the chorizo. On top, add a layer of the chorizo mix, a drizzling of cheese sauce, another layer or tortillas, and so on until you’ve run out of space or ingredients. Put this in the oven for a couple minutes until everything warms up, top with sour cream, pickled jalapeños, and more cheese if you’re a glutton like me.
There we go. This would probably go well with a nice cerveza and lime, ideally eaten al fresco. Or just chow down standing over the stove top and burning your tongue. Whatever works, baby.
That’s all I’ve got folks. Enjoy the weekend, and thanks for putting up with my recent discovery of the footnotes option in Substack!
One either “has it” or doesn’t. New Yorkers have it. Italians have it. Michael Jackson had it. Bostonians and your humble author, we don’t.
We’re speaking in generalities here, and remember, Van is a barber not an anthropologist.
Like the Mediterranean, Southern Europe, and Africa.
Ya… I know… colonizers.
Thank you, Squanto, et. al.
New York, on the other hand, is America’s melting pot. The city’s culture thrums around energy brought by immigrants (from warm places). It’s cool — it “has it.” Your social standing in New York relies on just how cool you are. At least, that’s how it appears from Van’s point of view.
70%, vs. 8% globally
Overwhelmingly in the affluent suburbs along Route 128 — or in Westchester County, NY or Fairfield County, CT.
It certainly wasn’t NYU Film school!
Did I mention that Van is Italian?
Ground beef or pork would work as well, just make sure to season it with some chili powder and smoked paprika along with salt and pepper.
Or half and half, or whole milk.