Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Chicken and Black Bean Nachos with Cheddar Sauce

I think nachos are as fun to put together as they are to eat. Lean, pan-seared chicken, black beans, and fresh salsa bring a healthful note to this platter. The cheddar cheese sauce and sour cream add some scrumptious Tex-Mex flair—without much guilt.

Speaking of the cheese sauce, this recipe starts with a roux, which is one of the best ways to ensure easy, lump-free melting of the cheese. Also key is adding the cheese a little at a time after you’ve removed the pot from the heat. This helps the roux and cheese blend slowly together into a deliciously velvety sauce.

I simply have to include a hot chile or two in the nachos topping because…well, heat is good. Here, I used only one because the chile was a fatalii—one of the hottest, most beautiful little chiles in the world, born in south-central Africa.

Fatalii Chile
The fatalii’s flavor is a little fruity, like citrus, but the heat is like habanero. The typical ranking on the Scoville scale is around 250,000, which puts it just below habanero—but I cook with habaneros a lot, and this fatalii certainly tasted hotter to me.

If you don’t have access to fatalii, use habanero. Or, if you’re not into that much heat, use milder jalapeno. The chicken and black bean mixture will tame whichever chile you use.

For a nachos recipe with a chili topping (and a quicker cheese sauce), check out Chicken-Chili Nachos with Spicy Cheddar Sauce.

Serves 4-5


For the Nachos
  • olive oil for brushing, plus 1 tbsp
  • 3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 fatalii or habanero chile, finely chopped
  • 1 cup cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
  • large, white-corn tortilla chips to cover a platter, slightly piled
  • fresh salsa (or your favorite salsa) and sour cream, for serving
Vegetables and Garlic
For the Cheddar Sauce
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1-1/2 cups 2% milk
  • sea salt
  • 6 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Cheese Sauce Ingredients

For the Nachos
  1. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and brush with oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and sear until lightly charred and just cooked through, 4-5 minutes per side, depending on thickness. 
  2. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 4-5 minutes. Cut into thin strips.
Tenders Ready to Sear
Beginning to Sear
Thinly Slice
  1. Re-heat the skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and chile and cook, stirring frequently, 4 minutes.
  2. Add the black beans and season with salt and pepper. Cook until hot throughout, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the sliced chicken to the skillet and stir to combine.
Onion Mixture Beginning to Cook
Beans Added
Sliced Chicken Added
For the Cheddar Sauce
  1. Heat a saucepan over medium-low heat and melt the butter. When the butter begins to foam, whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring frequently, 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add 1/2 cup of milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumping. Once the first 1/2 cup is blended in, add another 1/2 cup. Once blended, add the final 1/2 cup. Season with salt.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and cook the roux slowly, stirring a few times, 8 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat a stir in 1/3 of the cheese. Once the cheese is blended, stir in the remaining cheese, 1/3 at a time.
Cooked Roux
Milk Stirred In 
Milk mixture should coat the back of a spoon 
Whisk in the cheese off heat
Cheddar Cheese Sauce
To Assemble and Serve

Spread nacho chips on a platter, piling slightly. Pour half the cheese sauce over the chips and spoon the chicken-black bean mixture on top. Spoon the remaining cheese sauce around and over all. (Don’t smother the other toppings.)

Top with salsa and dollop with sour cream, or serve the salsa and sour cream on the side.

Chips with Cheese 
Chicken Mixture Added
Chicken and Black Bean Nachos with Cheddar Sauce

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