Great barbecue is about the cut of meat, the smoke, the rub, and the sauce. But just because sauce is only one part of the equation, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be excellent. In fact, barbecue sauce should be so delicious that you can use it for much more than simply dipping or brushing.
I like my barbecue sauces to be multipurpose: When I make a classic Georgia cracker salad, I like to blend a little Texas-style sauce into the mayonnaise. When I make make a fried chicken salad, I dress it with a vinegar-heavy North Carolina-style sauce. Then there are the fried green tomatoes I serve with a sassy mix of buttermilk ranch and Memphis barbecue sauce. But don’t stop there: A good barbecue sauce can lend a helping hand to a number of recipes you don’t always associate with barbecue — like these nachos.
These aren’t your average nachos, and you shouldn’t treat them as such: Adding jalapeños or cilantro would be a mistake, as would beans and tomatoes. These nachos work because there is a balance between the different components on the tray — like how the romaine lettuce catches all the runny cheese and the drops of barbecue sauce. On top of all that goodness, the vinegar in the sauce cuts the fatty meat and balances out the richness of the cheese; red and green onions combine to do what only onions can do.
I used a Memphis-style barbecue sauce here solely because the balance of tomato and vinegar play well with the corn chips, as do the garlic and shallots. But there are so many sauces to choose from, and so many ways to use them, that often I make a double batch of whatever recipe I’ve chosen. This sauce is dynamite on smoked chicken, turkey bacon burgers, and in mixed into ranch dressing as a dip. The best barbecue sauces are always homemade, and can be made in a matter of minutes while your butt is on the smoker.
Memphis Style Pulled Pork Nachos
Serves 6 to 8
For the barbecue sauce:
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic, grated with a microplane
1 1/2 teaspoons shallot, grated with a microplane
1/4 teaspoon Colman’s mustard powder
1 teaspoon hot sauce (I like Crystals brand)
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
For the nachos:
2 pounds pulled pork, smoked or not, warm
2 hearts of romaine, shaved
1 bag yellow corn chips
1 cup heavy cream
16 slices American cheese
1/2 cup red onion, small dice
1/2 cup green onion, sliced into thin rings
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1. Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a medium sized sauce pan and stir to combine. Place the pan over medium heat and bring the sauce to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and let it sit for half and hour. Remove the sauce from the heat until needed.
2. Heat the oven to 500° F. Line an 18 x 13-inch half sheet tray with foil. Spread the shaved romaine lettuce across the bottom of the pan. Top with half the mozzarella and sprinkle with half the red onion. I know you think this step is crazy, but the wilted romaine that soaks up any and all juices will be your favorite part of the nachos. Trust me.
3. Lay the bag of chips on its side and open it from the bottom. This keeps all the broken bits on the bottom, and the whole, good-looking chips stay on top. Place the bag onto the lettuce bottom side-down, and lift it slowly. Spread the chips out if needed.
4. Place the cream in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Add the slices of cheese, a slice or two at a time, only adding more when the first slices have melted. Be careful with the heat — the sauce can scorch. When all the slices have melted, turn the heat down to a simmer.
5. Dress the pork with a couple of tablespoons of sauce just to dampen it. Don’t bathe the pork in the sauce. Spread the pork out across the top of the chips, then sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella.
6. Place the nachos into the oven and bake 10 minutes or until the chips on top begin to brown. Remove the tray from the oven.
7. Using a large spoon, drizzle the warm barbecue sauce across the chips to taste. It doesn’t require as much sauce as you might think, plus the pork is already coated too, and you can always serve more sauce on the side.
8. Spoon the cheese sauce across the top, then top with the green onion and the remaining red onion. Serve.