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Super Bowl food questions you were afraid to ask: nachos

Chef Eli Kirshtein explains nachos and sets the world of chip rankings in order

Jonathan Daniel

In the final installment of Super Bowl Food Questions You Were Afraid To Ask, chef and food consultant Eli Kirshtein explains how you are destroying your nachos, how not to destroy them in the future, and why you should become an unbearable person and make your own pickled jalapeños. Oh, and CONTROVERSIAL CHIP RANKINGS at the bottom.

Nachos are a very complicated dish to get right. They can be horrible featuring stale chips and nasty burned cheese, or they can be glorious with a lot of texture with dipping and mixing abundance. Here are a few keys to success in your Nacho bowl.

Don’t open your chips till you are about to use them, or get fancy and make your own. Just take corn tortillas and cut them up, and fry ‘em. If you already have a fryer set up for wings or something, this is a great opportunity to do it. To class them up a bit, toss them with a little lime juice and/or zest, and maybe a light dusting of chili powder right when they come out of the fryer.

For cheese, get something good and melty. Go to your local Mexican grocer and find Oaxaca cheese. It’s similar to mozzarella in stringiness. Get it and tear it up over the top before you stick the whole thing in the oven. Other things like jack cheese do work just fine also, just don’t make the mistake of trying to use slices meant for lunch sandwiches. Really search for the right cheese. If you put some effort into it, you might be able to achieve a proper Mora-style meltdown over your chips.

For garnishes, the only must in my book is pickled jalapenos. And in a purist’s sense, this is accurate according to the alleged history of nachos. To make your own start by slicing fresh jalapenos into 1/8th inch slices. Bring 2 parts white vinegar and 1 part dark brown sugar to a boil. Pour it over the jalapeno slices, toss in a couple cloves of garlic, and let them sit in the fridge over night.

Magically, you will start being a huge prick immediately when you start telling everyone how you made them yourself.

If you do decide to go the route of putting meat on them, while you are at the Mexican grocer, pick up some Mexican Chorizo. It’s a smoky seasoned sausage. Cook it up and crumble it on top. Way better than the half-assed move of cooking up some burger meat in a pan and putting a little taco seasoning on it.

The most important thing: don’t overdress them, and get them eaten quickly enough that they don’t get soggy. Also, do a big batch and have some people over like Rita Rodriguez does.

And of course, the obligatory Southern Hip Hop shout out. Plus I think there is a recipe in the chorus, or it might be some drug dealing reference ... not sure.

Based on a very sophisticated algorithm as well as totally ignoring everyone else’s opinion, here are the late January, early February, chip and chip-like snacks power rankings.

  1. Flaming Hot Cheetos - With their raw power of deliciousness and amazing crunch, they lead the board. Far superior to their standard counterpart. But the single most amazing thing about this is that something from Texas is on top of a power ranking.
  2. Funyuns - Interesting onion-like flavor, unique shape, and have a glowing endorsement.
  3. Deer Antler Chips - Their stock has soared this week.
  4. Kettle Cooked Chips - Nothing witty about it, things are just damn good.
  5. Combos - With many flavors (including a limited edition Buffalo Blue Cheese) and some bizarre continuing ties to car racing, you have to respect this one.
  6. Pork Rinds - No explanation needed.
  7. Pirates Booty - With the advantage of being allegedly “healthy” and being like popcorn without the annoying skin pieces, they had to make this list. Plus I can totally imagine the Bucs get this stuff for free in the locker room.
  8. Fritos - With a great crunch, as well as a crazy amount of time for them to go stale, they are great for when you open them and then pass out, still good to eat when you rise.
  9. Corn Nuts - With Latin American roots, and the totally amazing ability to crush a ton at any given time, always a good go to. Plus, this is way too amazing.
  10. Zapp’s - Great flavors, totally insensitive to allergies by being cooked in peanut oil, and I felt it appropriate to put something associated with The Saints and LSU at the bottom of the list. GO FALCONS.

Dropped from the previous rankings that never existed: Chip Kelly, Chip Kell (dude who was obviously most pissed by the rise of Chip Kelly), and CHiPS (but really only Erik Estrada).

You can and should follow Chef Eli Kirshtein on Twitter.