Skillet Chicken Nachos with Oaxacan Black Beans
Skillet Chicken Nachos with Oaxacan Black Beans

If you want to make teenage boys happy and pretty much everyone else too, serve this for dinner tonight. It's super easy, really yummy and I can pretty much guarantee some extra kisses for you! On a scale of 1-10 in terms of fun dinner food, "this one goes to 11" (that's for all you Spinal Tap fans out there). What could be better than a huge skillet full of crunchy taco chips topped with saucy black beans, tender chicken, melted cheese, avocado and tomato?

Now I'm not going to actually go out on a limb and tell you that this a healthy dinner--I mean there are taco chips involved--but if we can ignore those thin crispy insubstantial fried wisps for a minute, the rest of the meal is surprisingly nutritious with grilled chicken, fiber-rich beans, calcium from the cheese, healthy fats from the avocado and vitamins and minerals from the tomatoes. And the joy it brings to the eaters of it has got to have some health benefits in there as well!

Plus, with the exception of baking the chicken, cooking the beans and the quick broil to melt the cheese at the end, this is totally a meal that young kids can help you prepare because it's all just about the layering--in my many years of parental experience, the older ones usually just want to lie on the couch watching TV until you yell in "Dinner's ready!!" but they are more than happy to inhale this!! Try it tonight and you'll see what I mean!

Skillet Chicken Nachos with Oaxacan Black Beans

Serves 3 normal eaters and 1 teenage boy--if you have more than 1 of them you may want to make more
Prep Time for the Chicken:  30-40 minutes (5 minutes active); Prep Time for the Beans:  30 minutes (but only about 10 is active); Assembly and Cooking Time:  15 minutes


For the chicken

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (if they are very thick, slice them in half lengthwise to make them thinner)
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Black Beans

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • Two 15 ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

For the nachos

  • 1 large bag unsalted taco chips
  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, freshly shredded
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
  • Sour cream and salsa on the side (optional)

The Recipe

1.  To make the chicken:  Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside. Brush the chicken on both sides with the oil and season with the spices. Place on the prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes until chicken is entirely cooked through. Let cool and shred into bite sized pieces. (you could easily do this early in the day or even the day before and refrigerate until ready to use).

2.  Meanwhile make the beans:  In a heavy medium-sized saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes, until it's softened and sort of see through. Add in the garlic and salt and pepper and saute for another minute, letting the garlic soften but not burn. Add in the beans and stir well. Add the broth, stir well and bring to a boil. Lower the heat so that the liquid is just simmering and let the beans cook for about 20 minutes, until they thicken and much of the liquid has evaporated. Add more salt and pepper if necessary and let the beans rest for about 10 minutes. You could also make this the day before or earlier in the day and keep it refrigerated until ready to use.

3.  To assemble the nachos:  Preheat the broiler. If you have a large cast-iron pan, this is the time to use it. Otherwise use any heat-proof pan or baking sheet you like. Place a large amount of the chips in the pan and top with the beans. Layer the chicken on top and then the Monterey Jack. Place under the broiler and heat for 4-6 minutes, until the cheese is melted and all is heated through. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn. 

4.  Remove from the oven and top with the tomatoes and avocado. Place the pan in the center of the table and let everyone dig in--just be careful of the hot pan. Serve with sour cream and salsa on the side or any other topping you like.


Note:  Recipe adapted from Taco Night by Kate McMillan. I tinkered around a lot with the spices and proportions of things.

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