Ball Park Nachos from 'Ultimate Nachos'

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[Photograph: Karen Wise]

Those of us who have spent time at sporting events, movie theaters, or amusement parks have probably eaten our fair share of sad concession nachos. You know, the stale round chips topped with "beef" and neon cheese served from a pump. And while these will certainly fill your belly, they're a far cry from even remotely decent nachos. But making a plate of concession stand-inspired nachos at home transforms a junky meal into something worthy of feeding friends.

Lee Frank and Rachel Anderson's Ball Park Nachos in Ultimate Nachos is one of the best ways to do so. Their take calls for a base of spice-laden picadillo, studded with raisins. They pile this mixture atop chips and then douse the whole thing in a bechamel-based cheddar cheese sauce. Sour cream, pickled japale├▒os, and pico de gallo add punch and brightness to finish.

Why I picked this recipe: It'd be impossible to cook from a nachos cookbook and skip a recipe with ground beef and oozing cheese sauce.

What worked: Sloppy, spicy, and gooey, this recipe hits all of those guilty pleasure points of concession stand nachos, but with much sharper flavor and better ingredients. It's a finger-licker.

What didn't: I thought the picadillo had too much dried spice flavor going on. Next time, I'd either hold back on the chili powder or else bloom it in the rendered beef fat before adding the remaining ingredients. Or both. Be careful with your choice of cheddar in the cheese sauce, too. Too sharp and it won't melt well. If you want to to use an aged cheese, round it out with some monterey jack to ensure smooth meltability.

Suggested tweaks: These are the kind of nachos that can take just about any of your favorite toppings. Pinto beans would be a nice addition, as would a fat scoop of guac and slivers of pickled red onions. Seriously, though. You could top the picadillo and cheese sauce with virtually anything and be super happy.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Ultimate Nachos to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American and Berkeleyside NOSH, and she blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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