Messy Barbacoa Nachos are a perfect game day treat (Melissa Elsmo/Eats Editor).

Game day around my childhood home was serious business.

To this very day my dad is a die hard Green Bay Packer’s fan; he holds season tickets at Lambeau field and has the vanity plates to prove it. My parents grew up in the small city known as “Packerland,” lived within walking distance of the Packer Hall of Fame, and even went trick-or-treating at Bart Starr’s house.

Despite my Dad’s undying loyalty to the Pack, he will watch just about any sporting event played by any team at any time. Consequently, Sunday afternoons at our house were filled with sounds of football announcers and crushing tackles as our fireplace glowed and crackled in the background.

It would have been a totally relaxing scene except my father, who is generally a soft-spoken guy, is a passionate sports fan. His frequent outbursts aimed at the television could easily scare the daylights out of an unsuspecting guest.  When my dad settled into to watch teams clash on the field he would become so agitated that I’d often seek some quiet in my room.

My mom would attempt to lure me out for some quality family-time with a batch of her game-nachos. I was never a big football fan and much preferred reading a book to taking in a sporting event, but a good game-day snack could easily entice me to bring my book downstairs and endure my dad’s erratic fan-rants.

As I’d nibble on a nacho and gaze at the pages of my book, out of nowhere my dad would scream things like, “Aw come on!” when a referee called a penalty or “Go, Baby Go,” if the quarterback managed to run the ball for a much needed first down.  It was jarring to be startled out of my Sunday trance, but I soon came to realize it was just as shocking to my mom.

My dad’s outbursts would cause her to gasp aloud and toss her JC Penny catalog into the air before exclaiming, “For heaven’s sake, Paul, calm down!”  He would quiet down for a bit, but his ears and face would get redder and redder until he exploded once again. Like clockwork, my mom would chastise him and the pattern would repeat itself again and again. Every Sunday…for my entire childhood.

Even the nachos were always the same.  My mom, who liked to control her environment, would line up round tortilla chips on a sheet pan and place a thin square of cheese precisely on the top of each chip.  She would place one pickled nacho pepper on half of them and bake them just until the cheese started to melt. They were the neatest looking nachos I’ve ever seen.

Looking back on it I think my mom’s tidy nacho creations were the perfect foil for my dad’s chaotic rush of football fueled emotions, but over the years I’ve come to believe nachos are better when prepared in a fashion that better represents my dad’s state of mind on game day; picture an explosion of ingredients including braised beef, beans, and a snappy cream in one gloriously messy pile!

Whip up a batch of my messy Barbacoa beef nachos the next time you plan to take in a game! The reader and the screamers in your life with both love them equally!

Messy Barbacoa Beef Nachos

This recipe makes a generous portion of beef, but it is delicious wrapped in soft corn or flour tortillas with little more than a garnish of onions and cilantro!

For the Crock Pot Barbacoa Beef:

  • 4 pound boneless beef chuck roast
  • Kosher salt and coarse black pepper
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 8 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1-7.5 ounce can chipotle in adobo, 2 chilies reserved
  • ¾ Cup brown sugar
  • 1 ½ Tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 limes, halved
  • 1-14.5 ounce can reduced sodium chicken stock

For the Chipotle Lime Cream:

  • 1 Cup Sour Cream
  • 2 reserved chipotle chilies, finely chopped
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced

For the Nachos:

  • 1-16 ounce bag sturdy lightly salted tortilla chips-I used El Milagro brand
  • 1 Cup Queso Quesadilla cheese
  • ½ Cup Shredded American cheese
  • ½ Cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheddar cheese
  • About 3 Cups Barbacoa beef
  • 1-15 ounce can pink beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small white onion, minced
  • ¼-1/2 Cup chopped cilantro
  • Cilantro lime cream
  • 4 Scallions, snipped
  • 1 Cup halved grape tomatoes
  • Hot Pickled Nacho Peppers (optional)

For the Beef: Season the roast liberally on both sides with salt and pepper. Sprinkle half the onion, all the garlic and the chocolate in the bottom of a 6-8 quart slow cooker.  Add the roast to the cooker and top with the remaining onion, chipotle chiles and all their adobo sauce, brown sugar, oregano, cumin, cinnamon and cloves. Tuck the bay leaves and onions around the roast and pour the chicken stock over the whole thing.  Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours until the meat shreds easily with two forks.  Remove the limes and bay leaves before shredding all the meat.  Whisk the liquid in the pot and moisten the meat with some of that chocolatey goodness. Shredded meat can be covered and refrigerated for 2 days before proceeding with this recipe.

For the Chipotle Lime Cream: Mixed all the ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate the cream overnight to allow flavors to blend.

For the Nachos: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the chips in an even layer on the baking sheet.  Combine the cheeses in a medium bowl.  Sprinkle half the cheese over the chips.  Top with the shredded barbacoa beef and the pink beans.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the nachos and place in the oven for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and beef is hot.  Remove the sheet pan from the oven and sprinkle the entire thing with the onions and cilantro.  Drizzle or dollop the chipotle lime cream over the entire tray of nachos.  Garnish with the scallions, tomatoes and pickled pepper slices.  Serve at once with loads of napkins!

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