Monday, February 13, 2012

Grilled BBQ Chicken Nachos (Recipe)

An old picture taken in better weather.

My blogger friend Robin Sue from Big Red Kitchen had a neat idea -- how about we start with a common meal suggestion and see how guys and gals might approach it differently? We can call it the He Said / She Said Project, if you will. The meal suggestion just happens to be Nachos and I like that.

I first found BRK when I saw Robin in a commercial for Finish Dishwasher Detergent that showed her taking pictures of a roast beef dish using a P&S camera. Since my wife often makes fun of me for doing exactly that, I had to pause the commercial and show it to her before visiting the website. The huge Recipe Box is awesome, largely because the recipes are quite simple. I could look at the pictures all day (I think her Big Red Kitchen is bigger than my living room!) and Robin Sue has a sense of humor that makes the recipes fun to follow. I haven't bought any mason jars yet, but I'm sure I will soon -- I'll buy some tonight if I can convince her to buy a smoker!

I know she loves Crossfit so she must be tough, and she used to have a Corvette so she's definitely cool. She's got some lucky kids -- check out the meals she packs for lunch. I'm guessing she might also be a Ninja, but she'd never admit it if she was.

And here's what She Said when it comes to preparing nachos: Pie Pan Nachos.

That looks like good fun for the whole family! We'll be trying it soon. I'm especially looking forward to making that Beer Queso...

So, one of my heroes, Meathead from AmazingRibs, says that "once you reach a certain age, you should have a handful of signature recipes that you can proudly call your own." I'm not quite there yet. I have exactly one two that I can do without notes, and it's this one this is one [EDIT: I forgot about Great Grandmother's Roast Beef]. It's the one our guests usually request on a return visit, and it's super simple. As per usual, it involves cooking with fire.

The beauty of this dish is the simplicity, and the subtle balance between the sweet tangy BBQ sauce and the smoke flavor absorbed by the chips, cheese, and beans. Please understand that the smoke is the star of the show, so there are no expensive ingredients or time-intensive processes. Various toppings can be added when the nachos are served, but we've found that these few ingredients work best on the grill and in the smoke. In fact, you might be surprised at how quickly these ingredients soak up the flavor.

  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • Tortilla Chips
  • Black Beans
  • Cheese
  • Sliced Jalapenos
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Chili Seasoning (I suggest Zillions)
  • Olive Oil (or any oil, really)

  • Drown Chicken Breasts in Olive Oil and Chili Seasoning.
  • Grill Chicken to 160 degrees.
  • Chop or shred Chicken and then toss in BBQ Sauce.
  • Arrange Tortilla Chips in single layer.
  • Top chips with Beans & Cheese.
  • Add layer of Chicken and another layer of Cheese.
  • Top with Jalapeno slices.
  • Smoke Nacho arrangement and serve.

We've settled on a specific list of easily sourced ingredients:
  • Snyder's White Corn Tortillas. They've been harder to find lately, but Tostitos work (even the Scoops).
  • Bush's Black Beans.
  • Sargento's 4 Cheese Mexican blend (it's fine to grate your own cheese, but remember it's getting smoked so it's probably not worth the effort).
  • Mezzetta Deli-Sliced Jalapeno Peppers (Hot or Tamed).
  • Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue Sauce.
  • Zillions Chili Seasoning is my favorite, but Chili Powder will work fine by itself if you don't use too much. (Of course, you can mix up your own rub by adding some Salt/Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Ground Cumin, etc...)

Fire up the charcoal. This recipe works perfect with one full chimney -- we grill the chicken while the charcoal is hot, and smoke the nachos after it has cooled down. The Weber Kettle is perfect for this meal because we're grilling first and smoking later. I don't know much about gas grills, but this recipe won't be the same unless you can add wood chunks or a smoke pouch. The smoke is the key!

Drown the chicken breasts with olive oil & the chili seasoning. The excessive oil will cause an initial flare-up that helps seal in that grilled flavor.

[NOTE:  Even when we're not making nachos, this is my favorite way to cook chicken. Grill up some breasts or tenderloins this way over the weekend, and you can use them over the next few days for quick lunches/snacks that still have that great grilled flavor -- sandwiches, salads, wraps, etc...]

Said flare-up. Position the charcoal on one side of the grill in order to cook the chicken over high heat. We'll prepare the nachos as the grill cools down, and they'll be placed on the other side to smoke.

Cook the chicken to 160 degrees, let it sit for five or ten minutes, and then chop it or shred it.

Coat the chopped/shredded chicken with the BBQ sauce, and now it's time to put the nachos together.

You can prepare the nachos on a couple sheets of aluminum foil or in a disposable foil pan, but a grill tray such as this one with a detachable handle is preferrable. It's easier to work with and the perforated bottom allows the chips to absorb more smoke. This is certainly the only thing I've ever bought from Avon, and I love it.

Spend a couple minutes carefully arranging the tortilla chips to cover the surface area. The nachos are easier to slide off the tray if you don't allow any cheese to fall through the cracks.

Add a little cheese and the beans. I like to think that little bit of cheese helps seal everything together, but it probably doesn't matter.

Top the beans with a thick layer of cheese. At this point I've used up one full bag and it looks like a lot, but it melts!

Arrange the chicken on top.

Top with more cheese and then the jalapenos.

Add some hickory chunks or chips to the coals, position the nachos on the other side of the grill, and close the top. Rotate every two or three minutes until the cheese is melted and the tortilla chips are beginning to brown -- about 8-10 minutes total. If the grill is still too hot, the chips might burn before the cheese melts, so keep an eye on it. You can always remove the tray and wait for the grill to cool down some more, if necessary. And don't be afraid to add more wood than you normally would -- the nachos won't be in the smoke for long, and you'll be opening the top frequently, so the more the better.

Grilled BBQ Chicken Nachos.


The obligatory motorcycle or Corvette pic that has nothing to do with nothing.
Buell Firebolt @ the National Corvette Museum.

A big pizza cutter makes it easy to cut the nachos up into individual portions.

It's nice to make some pico, guac, & salsa available...

...but I prefer to eat mine alone, or maybe with a little Taco Bell Hot Sauce. Just kidding! Kinda.

I smoked a smaller portion for my future assistant using Tostitos Scoops and the shredded chicken, and he ate every bite. OK, fine, he didn't. But Momma did!

PS:  These same ingredients make a mean pizza if you substitute pizza dough for tortilla chips and BBQ sauce for tomatoes. Also, use more Mozzarella or Provolone than Mexican cheese blend (but do use some MC blend). To add a smoke flavor you can smoke the beans and the chopped/shredded chicken for a few minutes before assembling the Pizza, or cheat by using Smoked Mozz.

I say the He Said / She Said Project was fun! I know we had a good time at my house, and I look forward to trying Robin Sue's recipe(s) soon. I hope we do this again... and in the meantime, make sure you visit the Big Red Kitchen when you're looking for some fun meal ideas.

UPDATE:  Grilled BBQ Chicken Stuffed Peppers  

I was already doing some Stuffed Bell Peppers on the grill, so I thought I'd try one with the above ingredients. If they translate to a good pizza, they might as well translate to a good pepper!

I roughly chopped the jalapenos this time and added some diced tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. I mixed all that up with the shredded chicken, black beans, dheese, and a couple crushed tortilla chips. Resist the urge to add more BBQ Sauce at this point -- what's already on the chicken is adequate and you can always add more later. After stuffing the mixture in the pepper, I topped with more cheese and cooked it over indirect heat using the same setup as above, but with more heat and less smoke. They were done in about 30 minutes.


UPDATE II:  BRK's Pie Plate Nachos  

We finally got around to trying the She Said recipes mentioned above -- Big Red Kitchen's Pie Pan Nachos. I was too lazy to build the chili (which is unfortunate because the recipe looks really good), so we just made the Sweet Hot Jalapenos & the Beer Queso and we added these items to our usual Taco Night ingredients. That makes this our first Nacho/Taco Night.

The jalapenos are amazing. I knew BRK would eventually convince me to buy some mason jars, and this was the recipe that finally did it. It's a real simple process -- the hard part is looking at that jar for three or four days before cracking it open and sampling the goods.

The Beer Queso is also quite simple, and awesome. We've actually made it a few times now, mostly because my wife makes me. It's a great dip by itself with tortilla chips, and it's even better when you add some meat and a Sweet Hot Jalapeno or two. I've tried it with fresh-grated cheese and with the pre-grated packaged cheese. Robin Sue is right -- the pre-grated stuff doesn't work as well. But when pressed for time, I'd rather use it than not make the Beer Queso at all!

Sweet Hot Jalapenos.
Sweet Hot Jalapenos.
These things are so good. They start off sweet and finish hot, and they pack a real garlic punch. I've been putting them on everything lately and they've been making everything better.

Nacho/Taco Night.
Beer Queso on the left...

Nachos & Tacos.
Is that your Taco? No, it's Nacho Taco -- it's MY Taco!

Beer Queso everywhere!

I'm pretty sure that's healthy because I see a bunch of vegetables.



  1. I have a few things to add to my shopping list, like that grill pan and zillion seasoning. But the best, which would make me even more Ninja is those shredding hands. Big Want. Never thought to use my rocker blade to cut the nachos- brilliant. And you are right, this would make a great pizza, and now that the kids have declared Friday night pizza night, it is a must do. I think I can get away with using my grill as a smoker. Great post. Yes we must do another! Hmmm, what next...

  2. Just came over to visit from Big Red Kitchen. Love your grilled chicken nacho plate!

  3. Thanks! I just visited and those pictures are outrageous! It's times like this that I consider giving up the P&S cameras...

  4. Thanks, Robin! The shredding hands are sold as "Bear Paws", and they come in handy more often than I expected. This was fun. Let us know how the pizza turns out! I hope we can try your Nacho recipes later this week...

  5. Wow, these are some nachos! And I love the idea of using the same ingredients for pizza.

  6. We are also putting those little jalapenos on everything! The queso is drinkable with a big fat straw;-) Love that last photo of the nachos and tacos! Any kind of meal when everyone can build their own plate is always a winner in my house- my kids skip the veggies though. We have got to come up with another winner dinner to post!

  7. Just saw your recent post in my FB news feed. Awesome!! I so wish you were our neighbor! :)