I'm no sports fan. There, I said it. But stick me in a sports bar with a plate full of nachos, and I'll make short work of them. There are plenty of substandard bar nachos out there, and then there are fancified takes. For me, it's only the tried and true Tex-Mex flavors that will do.
These beef barbacoa nachos take their cue from Northern Mexican flavors. The brisket, which marinates in a heady, piquant blend of tomato and vinegar-based spices, slow-cooks in a Dutch oven until fall-apart tender. Then, it's shredded and mixed with some of its brooding cooking jus.
The finishing touches—creamy, chipotle-laced cheese sauce, pickled onions and a host of colorful, requisite toppings like black olives—result in something that any sports (or sports bar) fan can appreciate.
Note: Plan to marinate the barbacoa overnight. The meat can be made two days in advance and refrigerated until ready to use. Leftover brisket is perfect tucked into warm corn tortillas, sprinkled with cilantro and onions and a squirt of lime juice.
- For the Barbacoa
- 1 ½ pound beef brisket, trimmed of fat and shiny, silver sinew
- 16-ounce can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes with juice
- ½ cup dark lager
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried ancho chile powder
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
- ½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 whole chipotle chile en adobo, chopped, plus 2 tablespoons adobo sauce, divided
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- ½ teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- For the Cheese Sauce
- 4 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese (half of an 8-ounce block), shredded
- 4 ounces Velveeta, cubed
- 1 cup whole milk
- One tablespoon cornstarch
- For the pickled red onions
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 large red onion, halved and sliced
- ½ cup cider vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- ½ teaspoon Mexican oregano
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- For the Nachos
- 1 (1 pound) bag sturdy, restaurant-style tortilla chips
- ½ cup pickled jalapeños, sliced
- 1 (15 ounce) can pinto beans, drained, rinsed and lightly smashed
- 1 (3.8 ounce) can sliced black olives
- 1 cup chopped Roma tomatoes (about 2 tomatoes)
- 1 cup sour cream
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 cups salsa
For the Beef: Place brisket in a resealable bag. Combine tomatoes (with juice), lager, cumin, chile powder, cocoa, oregano, vinegar, chipotle chile and 1 tablespoon adobo sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a blender and puree until smooth. Add marinade to brisket, seal bag tightly removing as much air as possible, and place in refrigerator to marinate overnight, turning occasionally.
The next day, adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat oven to 300°F. Place brisket and marinade in a Dutch oven. Add bay leaves. Bring to a bare simmer over high heat. Cover, place in the oven, and cook until meat is fork-tender, about 3 1/2 hours. Remove meat from the cooking liquid, discard bay leaves and allow meat to cool before shredding into strands. Roughly chop into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Transfer to a small bowl, combine with 3⁄4 cup reserved cooking liquid. Taste and season with salt, if necessary. Set aside.
For the Cheese Sauce: Add the cheeses and cornstarch to a large bowl. Toss to combine. Transfer to a medium saucepan and add milk and remaining tablespoon of adobo sauce. Over low heat, whisk until cheese is melted and velvety, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
For the Onions: Heat vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat until shimmering. Add onions and sauté, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add vinegar, water, oregano and sugar and season with half remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. Allow to cool to room temperature before using.
Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions and preheat oven to 350°F. Arrange tortilla chips on a baking sheet in a single layer. (You will have enough ingredients to make two trays-worth.) Reheat beef and cheese sauce. Drizzle with cheese sauce, scatter with shredded brisket and top with jalapeños, pinto beans, black olives and tomatoes. Bake until chips are lightly toasted and ingredients are warmed through, 7-8 minutes. Dollop with sour cream, sprinkle with cilantro and pickled red onions and serve with salsa for passing.