My forays into the world of creative junk food have not always been successful. Let's face it: I'm a girls' girl usually found wielding a baguette in one hand and a bottle of Champagne in the other. But, by way of confession, I really, really love the junk food aisle. Like most girls in their 20s, I try to curb my adoration. But, truth be told, there are few things I love more than a bag of crunchy Cheetos or Smartfood popcorn. I crumble ranch Doritos on top of cold delivery pizza. I once plucked an open but uneaten bag of Cheetos from the garbage in college (again, this is a confession), and my friends still tell the story of how I crawled inebriated into bed the night of my 18th birthday, refusing any company other than a bag of Cape Cod potato chips.
But, as I said, I do try to watch myself. I don't want "Kerry" to become as synonymous with potato chips as "Popeye" is with spinach. So, I look forward to those few occasions a year when junk food is encouraged and exalted: the Fourth of July, for instance, or most important, the Super Bowl. Super Bowl Sunday is when I cut loose all ties and dive straight into the blue cheese pool. Growing up in a tangle of Europeans did not do much for my football fever, so this Sunday is like my culinary Christmas.
This year, I wanted to outdo myself. And I think I did. I combined two of my favorite all-American junk food concoctions: nachos, and the loaded baked potato. Why should chips and cheese be relegated exclusively to flavors of the Southwest? Think of all the delectable permutations of chips and melted cheese that are possible! Instead of corn chips, I use super-crunchy kettle-cooked potato chips and load them with all the traditional baked potato fixings. I start with a creamy mashed potato spread, then shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, homemade bacon bits, and sliced scallions. I melt the whole concoction in a hot, crisping oven, and the baked potato chips emerge laden with drapes of oozing cheese. As a final touch, I add a giant spoonful of sour cream, which immediately starts to melt and pool around all the nooks and crannies. These chips are easy and innovative--and they won't last one quarter, so make a few batches!
- 1 seven-ounce bag of kettle-cooked potato chips
- 1 medium russet potato, peeled, and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Salt and pepper
- 4 strips thick-cut bacon
- 1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 to 3 scallions, sliced
- 1/4 cup sour cream
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Place the peeled and cubed potato in a small sauce pan, and just cover it with cold water and a pinch of salt. Place the lid on the pot, crank the heat up to high, and cook the potatoes until they are fork tender.
To make the mashed potato topping, drain the potatoes and put them back in their hot pot (but not on a lit burner), just so a bit of the excess moisture will evaporate. Then pass the potatoes through a ricer, and add the butter and milk to the potatoes and mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper. If you do not have a ricer, don't despair. Just add the butter and milk to the chunks of potatoes and mash with a potato masher.
For the bacon bits, slice each thick-cut strip of bacon in half lengthwise, and then cut the thin strips about every quarter inch to create little squares. Put the bacon pieces into a small sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat, and cook until crisp, but not crisp all the way through, because they will continue to crisp slightly when you melt the cheese in the oven, and you don't want them to burn. Drain on a paper towel.
Fill an oven-safe wide plate with the chips. You don't need to use all of each topping; really, when building nachos, it depends on which chips and which dish you end up choosing. So just dollop away to your preference. Begin first with the mashed potatoes, then the extra sharp cheddar cheese, then the bacon bits, and lastly the scallions. Place the plate on a baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes in the 400°F oven.
Lastly, dollop some sour cream over the top of the nachos, and serve straight from the oven, hot and gooey and really, really good.