There are many dishes I love, but there’s a special place in my heart for the ooey-gooey goodness of a big ol’ plate of nachos. Inspired by my love of the layered fare, I decided to throw a dinner party centred around one ingredient: jalapeños.
Jalapeños are surprisingly quite adaptable, as I learned from scouring Pinterest. You can stuff them with cheese for lil’ jalapeño poppers; deep fry them in a beer batter; or slice them up for a cucumber jalapeño lime salad.
I elected to spice up nachos, tacos, and a delicious watermelon margarita for jalapeños three ways; four ways, if you count jalapeño cheddar chips (which I do)! The recipes are simple, require minimal cooking, and many of the ingredients for tacos and nachos overlap—meaning your trip to the grocery store can be lickety-split.
Plan your dinner party for a sweltering summer day when the margaritas will taste even more refreshing; and, if you can, host it at an apartment with a gorgeous rooftop view, the same day of a fireworks show, like I did.
Jalapeño watermelon margaritas
I ended up adapting this recipe from Spicy Southern Kitchen quite a bit. First, I doubled it; then, I didn’t strain the pulp out of the watermelon purée, opting instead to keep the mixture thick and slushy; finally, I cut out the added simple syrup and sugar—watermelon’s sweet enough! Check out the original recipe, or follow ours below.
Two jalapeños, sliced into thin rounds
- 1 1/2 cups white tequila
- Half of a watermelon, chopped up into cubes and puréed in a blender
- 1 cup lime juice
- 2/3 cup triple sec
- Chilli powder and/or salt, with lime juice for the rim of the glass
- Limes, sliced into thin rounds for garnish
First, take one jalapeño worth of slices and put them into a jar with your white tequila. Set the jar in the fridge to become infused over the course of one to four hours—it all depends on how spicy and smoky you want your tequila.
While that saturates, you combine the rest of your ingredients. Having puréed the watermelon (likely in batches), pour the slush into a tall pitcher. Mix in your triple sec and lime juice. You can set that in the fridge, then simply add your tequila when it’s ready. Strain out the the jalapeños before adding the tequila, or leave them in for a colourful mix!
Finally, pour some chilli powder and/or salt onto a plate (be sure to mix them pretty evenly if you’re doing both). Line the rim of your glasses with the juice from a lime wedge, then coat the rim in chilli powder/salt by dipping it into the mixture. Fill the glasses with your margaritas, and garnish with lime and jalapeño slices.
Nachos are hugely adaptable: add meat, or don’t; add olives, or don’t; even remove jalapeños if you aren’t interested in having too much spice!
- Tortilla chips. Look for ones with density, that won’t fall apart under the weight of your toppings
- Cheese, grated. You can use whatever kind of cheese you want, but I went with a blend of mozzarella, Monterey Jack, and cheddar
- Jalapeño, sliced into thin rounds
- Red onion, sliced thin
- Black olives
- Tomato, sliced
Preheat your oven to 350 F. Next, layer some of your tortilla chips onto a baking tray—you will be layering all of your ingredients at least twice, so essentially halve your ingredients for the first layer. Sprinkle this layer of chips with cheese, jalapeños, red onion, black olives, and tomato. Layer some more chips, the pile on the same toppings.
You can go for a third layer, or stop here and pop the baking tray in the oven once it’s ready. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted throughout. Serve while it’s warm, with guacamole and delicious salsa!
I made fish tacos with Pacific cod, but you can always adapt to use another fish, another meat, or go vegan/vegetarian with no meat at all. And, good news, you can use a lot of your ingredients from the nachos for the tacos!
- Pacific cod, shredded and seasoned lightly with chilli powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, and lime juice
- Jalapeño, sliced into thin rounds
- Red onion, thinly sliced
- Red cabbage, thinly sliced
- Guacamole/freshly sliced avocado
- Cilantro, chopped up
- Tomatoes, thinly sliced
- Cheese, grated
Put your toppings—jalapeños, red onion, red cabbage, guacamole and/or sliced avocado, salsa, cilantro, tomatoes, cheese—into separate bowls, with any serving utensils your guests will need. Assemble the ingredients on a table, with a stack of tortillas plated on one end, alongside plates and napkins for guests. You’ve got yourself a self-serve taco bar!
Next, heat a pan to medium-high on the stovetop with a little olive oil. Once it’s hot, cook your pacific cod through. The cod should turn white and flak easily when it’s done; this shouldn’t take too long, since you’ve increased the surface area of the fish by shredding it.
When your cod is cooked through, present it in a bowl and place alongside the other ingredients on the taco bar.
There you have it, an easy jalapeño dinner party, perfect for sweltering summer months!
Watch the video, for some solid awkward Nat time! 😉