Cinco de Mayo 2015: family nachos

(written for the Family Spotlight magazine)

Cooking with kids: Nachos Slow fast food

It’s Friday night. I fill a large bowl with dried black beans, cover them with cold tap water and call out, "I’m sorting beans," in the direction of my kids.
Before I can lay the bowl firmly on the kitchen table, a slender young hand plunges into the water. The hand belongs to my youngest, who knows the drill of washing the beans and doing a quick search to remove any stones or unwanted bits. The chance to run fingers through the pebblelike beans is too enticing to resist.
Once the beans pass inspection, I change the water and leave the bowl on the counter to soak overnight. On Saturday morning, the beans are rinsed and poured into a slow cooker, along with a can of diced mild chiles, three garlic cloves and just enough water to cover the mixture. We set the cooker to low and let it simmer away for seven hours.
Now, it is Saturday evening. We’re home from the day’s basketball games, bike rides and birthday parties. With the beans cooked, I season them with salt and leave them to cook on warm. Then we turn to making the other parts of the nachos.
When it comes to cooking with children, it’s wise to seek out simple recipes - but the recipes needn’t always be fast. I think it’s worthwhile to teach kids that slow food can be easy food, too. My family’s nacho recipe is a perfect example of that. Its uncomplicated preparation will fit into just about any schedule. We generally undertake ours on a weekend night.
"Is this a real paint brush?" asks my youngest.
I look to see the pastry brush swirling in purposeful circles, coating the tortillas in avocado oil.
"It’s a brush for painting food," I answer.
Then, to my oldest, I call out: "Set the oven to 400 and get out the pizza cutter."
We salt the tortillas and take turns dividing them into triangles with the cutter.
While the kids spread the tortilla triangles onto baking sheets, I season chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add them to an oiled, hot Dutch oven. Once browned on both sides, we add cumin, paprika and a small amount of cinnamon. We pour water over the chicken and set the heat to low. After approximately 30 minutes of braising, the chicken is ready to cut into pieces.
"If we were bunny rabbits, we could live next door to each other, near the oak tree at the park," my youngest says.
I agree that this would be nice. I’m busy dicing green onions and avocado. She’s squeezing lime over everything and eating the sliced olives when she thinks I’m not watching.
The older one has lost interest in the cooking and is out shooting hoops. We can see him from the kitchen window.
When the chicken is cooked, I dice it and return it to the braising liquid. I place the baked chips into an oven-safe dish, cover them with grated cheese and pop them back in the oven long enough for the cheese to melt. When the cheese-ladened chips come out, it’s all hands on deck for nacho assembly.
Everyone makes their own concoctions. My husband pours drinks for all, and we crash out around the kitchen table for the kind of conversation that seems only to happen when you’re eating food you’ve helped prepare. My kids are excited and feel like they’ve accomplished something.
Slow Nachos with Baked Tortilla Chips
Slow-Cooker Black Beans
• 16-ounce bag of black beans, dried
• 4-ounce can mild green chiles, diced
• 3 garlic cloves, whole and unpeeled
• 1 tablespoon salt (more to taste)
Soak beans according to package descriptions.
Place beans, chiles and garlic in slow cooker. Cover with water and cook on low 7 hours.
Add salt when beans are cooked.
Baked Tortilla Chips
• 8 corn tortillas
• 2 tablespoons avocado oil (may substitute with other vegetable oil)
• Kosher salt
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using pastry broth, coat both sides of tortillas with oil. Cut into triangles and sprinkle salt.
Lay triangles out on baking sheets, leaving at least 1/4-inch between each (too close and they won’t crisp up).
Bake 8-10 minutes, turning once.
Allow to cool 5 minutes on baking sheets - this helps them become crispy.
Nacho Chicken
• 1 tablespoon avocado oil
• 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon paprika
• 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
• Salt and pepper to taste
Add oil to Dutch oven or other heavy-bottom pot and set over medium-high heat.
Season chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper.
When oil is shimmering, add chicken. Brown on both sides (approximately 5-7 minutes per side). Add cumin, paprika and cinnamon.
Cover with water, lower heat to simmer, put lid on and let cook 30 minutes.
When fully cooked, cube or shred chicken and return to liquid in Dutch oven.
• 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
• 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
• 2 ripe avocados, diced
• 1/4 cup sour cream
• 4-ounce can of black olives, sliced
• 3 green onions, diced
• Tortilla chips
• Prepared chicken and beans
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Place tortilla chips in oven-safe dish and cover evenly with grated cheese.
Bake until cheese is melted (7-10 minutes).
If a joint assembly effort, allow each family member to prepare one corner of the dish with desired toppings, including avocado, sour cream, olives and green onions.
Note: This recipe results in plenty of leftovers. I turn the beans into a chili during the week by browning turkey burger, adding the beans and frozen corn and seasoning all with chili powder, cumin and cilantro.


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