All-star nachos!

Photo: All-star nachos start with home-made pico, not watery salsa.

Photo: Tim O’Connor

By Tim O’Connor

It’s a good time for sports. The Super Bowl and the NHL All-Star are among the highlights on the February calendar, and there’s NBA basketball as well. When I think of sports, I think of nachos.

Now, a lot of people say nachos are easy, but if so, how do so many places screw them up so much? There are a lot of bad nachos out there, soggy and over-saturated and beaten down with too much topping. Like even the greatest defensive line, a nacho can only take so much.

To do nachos right, let’s start with the pico – not salsa.

Salsa is too wet, whereas quick, homemade pico is more respectful of the corny chip. I also pickle the jalapeño, which is easy and develops those flavours. Pico gives your chips a fighting chance.

Next, go the store and buy pre-shredded Tex-Mex cheese or nacho cheese mix. Shredding at home is too expensive and the bagged stuff melts perfectly — gooier than cheddar but less gooey than mozzarella. In the pan, your chips should be laid out evenly and not be tripping over one another. Spread them nicely, and don’t layer them. Pan position is as important as field position.

Sprinkle your pico evenly over the chips, and then do the same with your cheese — one layer of coverage, just like the tarp they roll out during rain delays in a ball game. You don’t want mounds of cheese.

I normally add rôtisserie or leftover chicken or pulled pork or even sausage bits. Don’t overload, just remember you’re trying to get this tiny chip from the tray to your mouth without losing anything. Then add the pickled peppers and black olives, for a salty touch.

Use a squeeze bottle to easily spread your sour cream across the cooked chips. My nacho game elevated so much when I bought a one-dollar squeeze bottle – with a criss-cross motion (think of a running back dodging linebackers all the way down field) gets a perfect stream of sour cream over the pan of nachos.

Rule one is to not overload. We want the chips to crunch, even when they come out of the oven and you add a bit of guac and do the zig-zag of sour cream.

One final note: Don’t go cheap on the chips, and don’t go for big restaurant cuts, because they’re too big. You need a smaller chip that’s still thick enough to hold the weight of delicious toppings.



8 Roma tomatoes, diced and seeded

1 red onion, diced

2 tbsp cilantro, chopped

1 jalapeño, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

2 limes, juiced

2 tbsp ketchup


Mix ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Let sit for an hour and season again, if necessary.


Pickled jalapeno


1 cup vinegar

3/4 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 tbsp pickling spice

5 jalapeños, sliced


Bring all except jalapeños to a boil. Strain liquid over the 5 sliced jalapeños, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for a couple of hours.


Tim O’Connor was raised in the Glebe and is head chef at Flora Hall Brewing.


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