The last time I had a good platter of nachos at a restaurant, I was having Margaritas with two college friends. It was an elaborate layered dish with lots of meat, at least three salsas, melted cheese and chopped vegetables. The platter was so huge that we couldn’t finish everything.
It was quite surprising to discover much later that the original nachos was not as elaborate nor as filling as the one I had with my friends. When Ignacio Anaya created nachos in 1940 at the Victory Club in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, it was a simple dish of crispy tortillas cut into bite-sized pieces, heated with shredded cheese and sprinkled with sliced jalapeños. It was served as a snack to a regular customer who requested that she and her friends be served something different.
The birth of nachos was an inspired spur-in-the-moment. Anaya was not a cook but the maître d’hôtel of the Victory Club. On that fateful day when nachos was born, there were no cooks at the Club and Anaya took it upon himself to serve the guests.
The simple snack he produced was well liked and story has it that it was the guests who christened the dish “Nacho’s Special.” If you haven’t figured it out yet, Nacho is a common nickname for Ignacio. So, “nachos” is not a derivative of the name of any ingredient in the dish but, rather, a shortened version of Nacho’s Special.
I’ve wondered for a long time how nachos prepared so simply could satisfy the palate. And so we tried to recreate Anaya’s iconic snack at home and I have to admit that simplicity has its charms.
Nachos a la Ignacio Anaya
- 4 cups corn tortilla chips
- ¼ cup pickled jalapeños
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Spread the tortilla chips on a baking tray and pop into the oven.
- Roughly chop or slice the pickled jalapeños.
Make the cheese sauce
- In a sauce pan, melt the butter and stir in the flour to make a roux.
- Cook the roux for about two minutes then drizzle in the milk while stirring.
- Cook until the mixture is thickened then turn off the heat.
- Stir in the shredded cheese until melted.
- Taste and add salt, if needed (see notes after the recipe).
Assemble the nachos
- Take the tortilla chips out of the oven and spread half on a plate or shallow bowl.
- Drop in the cheese sauce using a teaspoon then sprinkle in half of the jalapeños.
- Spread the remaining half of the tortilla chips on the plate, drop in more cheese sauce and sprinkle in the rest of the jalapeños.
- Serve the nachos immediately.