When I was a kid, one of my go-to fend-for-myself meals was nachos. Heap tortilla chips, refried beans, olives, meats, cheeses and whatever else struck me onto a giant dinner plate. Sprinkle a most liberal amount of cheese over everything, then pop the whole thing in the microwave for a minute. Done! And delicious.
It didn't occur to me until I was an adult that there was any other way to make nachos. And I was blown away by the difference between nuking my nachos and baking them in the oven. Texture alone was remarkably improved. No more soggy chips that turned rubbery by the end of the meal. And that says nothing of the wonderful browning of the cheese no microwave ever could achieve.
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And it didn't occur to me until this summer that I could take my nacho evolution even further by moving them out of the oven and onto... the grill.
The point of course is not merely to use the grill as an outdoor oven, though in summer sometimes that is justification enough. But rather to use the power of the grill to impart a delicious smokiness to the nachos. And that is why the corn and the steak that eventually land on the nachos first get cooked on the grates.
Of course, nachos are a personal matter. We all have our set of must-have toppings. So use my list as a suggestion and run with the technique.
• J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets @JM--Hirsch.