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molto buona – mey bien!

Two weeks ago, Dave and I went down to Tucson for a long weekend. On the first night, we decided to go to J Bar, my friend, and James Beard award-winning chef, Janos Wilder’s, casual restaurant which is right beside his acclaimed upscale namesake restaurant, Janos. After perusing the menu, we wanted to order everything on it!  Instead, we decided we’d control ourselves and just come back the next night, which we did. One appetizer we just had to have was the J Bar Nachos. They did not disappoint – I haven’t been able to get them out of my mind since!  When Janos came to the Valley last week to teach a class, I asked him to please share the secret of “the out-of-this-world” chili con queso that pushed the nachos into a league of their own. Turns out the con queso had an Italian twist in the form of mascarpone. I didn’t ask for the exact recipe, although he offered, Dave and I think this is pretty darn close. The Salsa Fresca is from Janos’ cookbook, The Great Chilies Rellenos Book, which is a must-have if you love Rellenos. I used heirloom tomatoes from the farmer’s market I visited this morning.  See, I took my own advice and went this weekend, hope you got a chance to get to one too!

Topnotch Nachos

Mascarpone Chili Con Queso
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup minced shallots
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Anaheim chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
8-ounce container mascarpone cheese

Janos’ Salsa Fresca
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 Anaheim chile, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 poblano chile, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Tortilla chips
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
6 ounces chorizo, cooked
2 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 avocado, diced

Chili Con Queso: Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan, add shallots and sweat until soft, add garlic and chiles and sauté until chiles are softened. Add white wine and bring to a simmer, continue to simmer until wine is reduced by at least half. Add cream and bring to a medium simmer and reduce until thickened, about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in mascarpone until completely melted and incorporated. Makes about 2  1/2 cups

Salsa Fresca: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, refrigerate and serve within 24 hours.  Makes about 3 cups

Nachos: Preheat broiler. Lay tortilla chips in one layer on a large baking sheet. Scatter cheddar cheese evenly over chips, and sprinkle evenly with chorizo and poblano slices. Spoon chili con queso on top and place under broiler until cheddar cheese is melted, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Use a spatula to transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle avocado on top and serve immediately with salsa Fresca.

Serves 4

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