No matter what the season, there’s always an excuse to eat delicious, greasy bar food. In the winter, it’s stick to your ribs comfort food to keep you sated against the cold weather. In the spring and summer, it’s the go-to-choice after too many margaritas on a shaded patio and come fall, it’s all about football game day eats. One of our favorites? Excessive, loaded chicken nachos dripping with cheese.
Luckily, the Hard Rock Cafe, located in Chicago’s River North neighborhood for more than 28 years, does more than just music. Though there are plenty of local spots in Chicago for sports bar fare, Hard Rock Cafe chef Phil Pomykalski is working seamlessly to integrate local flavor and preferences into the international chain’s menu concept.
Chicago is definitely not a city for light eaters, and the nachos at Hard Rock Cafe are reflective of that with tortilla chips piled high and layered with three bean mix, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses, pico de gallo, jalapeños and green onions.
We have a few tips from Pomykalski to help you make your own nachos at home on those nights that you can’t justify a trip to your favorite watering hole.
There are plenty of products out there that offer shortcuts for your nachos, from spice mixes to canned toppings to processed cheeses. Stay away from those at all costs!
“We make every component for our nachos from scratch,” said Pomykalski. “We grate real cheddar and jack cheeses straight from the block. Our three bean nacho mix is made from scratch as well, building layers of flavor as we add each and every ingredient for maximum flavor.”
It’s easy enough to grate cheddar and monterey jack cheese in your own kitchen, using canned beans instead of a pre-mixed topping. Though Pomykalski recommends making pico de gallo and guacamole from scratch, you can also buy these from a gourmet grocery store, where they’re usually made fresh daily. Always use fresh vegetables, garlic, herbs and real lemon and lime juice, too, for the best flavor.
To keep your nachos from coming out of the oven in one soggy mess, Pomykalski suggests using freshly fried chips. “We layer the ingredients and bake our nachos in two stages making sure to distribute all the components evenly to avoid a soggy product,” he said.
When feeding a crowd, as most are when they make a huge batch of nachos, try to think about pleasing everyone. “If you are making your beans from scratch, try and keep them vegetarian,” Pomykalski said. “Offer fresh grilled proteins on the side like grilled chicken or marinated carne asada. You can also customize your toppings and offer spicy ingredients, like jalapeños and different salsas, on the side to please all palates.”
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 small white onion, chopped
- 1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt, to taste
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 12 ounces tortilla chips
- 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
- 10 ounces Cheddar and/or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
- 2 cups fresh pico de gallo
- 1 cup fresh guacamole
- Thinly sliced jalapeño, for garnish
- Sour cream, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Meanwhile, heat oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent, about three minutes.
- Add black beans, cumin, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for about three to five minutes or until heated through. Remove from heat.
- On a sheet pan or cookie sheet, layer one-third the tortilla chips and top with one third the black beans, chicken, cheese, and salsa. Repeat layering process until all ingredients are used up (should have about three layers).
- Transfer to oven and bake 18 to 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and begins to bubble. Remove from oven, top with avocado, jalapeno, and sour cream and serve immediately. Serve alongside extra guacamole and salsas, if desired.