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.
Reprinted with permission from Ultimate Nachos: From Nachos and Guacamole to Salsas and Cocktails by Lee Frank and Rachel Anderson, copyright 2013. Published by St. Martin's Griffin. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- Jerk chicken marinade:
- 2 scotch bonnet peppers, seeded and chopped
- 4 green scallion tops, chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 tablespoons salt
- Juice of 3 limes
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 pound jerk-marinated chicken breasts (above)
- 1 mango, pitted, peeled, and chopped
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 7 ounces corn tortilla chips, approximately half of a store-bought bag, or, if prepared fresh, use 15 corn tortillas, each cut into 6 triangles
- 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
- Simple Pico de Gallo
- Simple Guacamole
To marinate the chicken: In a bowl, whisk all of the ingredients for the marinade to combine.
Place the chicken in a gallon-size freezer bag or a nonreactive (plastic or glass) storage container with a lid. Pour the marinade on top of the chicken, then close the bag or cover the container, and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
To prepare the chicken and mango: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Remove the chicken from the jerk marinade and grill over medium heat. The most authentic way to prepare jerk chicken is over charcoal. However, a grill pan or outdoor grill works for this recipe as well. Grill each side for approximately 15 minutes or until the internal temperature registers 165°F on an instant-read thermometer.
Allow the chicken to cool for 5 minutes, then shred it with a fork.
While the chicken is grilling, in a food processor or using an immersion blender, coarsely purée the mango, lime juice, and cayenne into a slaw-like texture.
To assemble the nachos: Layer the tortilla chips in a 9 x 13-inch roasting pan. Evenly distribute the chicken and mango mixture over the chips. Cover the chips with the shredded cheese.
Bake the nachos for 15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Pair with the Simple Pico de Gallo and Simple Guacamole.