Serious Eats

Jerk Chicken Nachos from 'Ultimate Nachos'

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[Photograph: Karen Wise]

Of the many unique recipes in Lee Frank and Rachel Anderson's new cookbook, Ultimate Nachos, the sweet-and-spicy jerk chicken nachos stood out as a must-try.

As any spice-fiend knows, jerk marinade is a potent blend of scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, scallions, lime, thyme, and a plethora of other spices. The meat, most often chicken, is grilled to add a serious layer of smoke to the flavor profile. Adding cheese and salsa to build nachos is therefore a balancing act, and Frank and Anderson do it with ease. Monterey Jack is a wise choice for its mild meltability, and the addition of sweet mango salsa balances the heat from the chicken. The more traditional toppings, pico de gallo and guacamole, round out the nachos for a final layer of freshness.

Why I picked this recipe: I can't help but crave the numbing spice of good jerk chicken. Why not put it on nachos?

What worked: Between the spicy chicken, sweet mango, melty jack cheese, pico, and guac, there's a lot going on here. But it all works. Make these now, please.

What didn't: Cooking the chicken all the way to 165°F will leave it dried out upon second cooking. Instead, aim for 150-155°F. If that makes you squeamish, remember that it goes back in the oven for 15 minutes!

Suggested tweaks: I'd probably make this with boneless chicken thighs next time for richer meat (and because I can't get enough chicken thighs). You can also go up on peppers (or include the seeds) if you'd like spicer chicken. As written, the chicken has a mild burn but is far from overwhelming. You could also use any number of sweet fruits instead of mango in the salsa if you'd like. Pineapple or peach would be great. If you can't find scotch bonnets, you can use habaneros instead.

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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