Italian Nachos a'la Johnny Carino's

From my mother's side of the family I get my American Indian roots. From my father's side, we're really not sure what roots spring up there. ;) But I can't figure out where my Italian roots come from. I'm sure I have them. I can eat pasta with the best of them, and I like saying words like focaccia, penne, tortellini, linguini, Alfredo and ala panna.

I've got to research my bloodline. It's got to be there somewhere.

In any case, I decided to tackle one of my family's favorite dishes when we go out for Italian. Johnny Carino's Italian Nachos. They're amazing. The chips are light, airy and crispy, and I've never figured out how they make them so delicious. Then I found the head chef's blog, and was shocked to find the actual recipe for the nachos!

You'll never guess what the chips are made of.

First, let's get our ingredients together. For the chips you need...ready for this?...a package of wonton wrappers. Yeah. That's it. I mean, I knew you could fry wontons, but I never in a million years thought of making chips out of them! I picked up a package of 60, and only used half of the package to feed 4 people.

For the sauce, you'll need half and half (or heavy cream), butter (the real stuff man!), 2 small cloves of garlic, flour, and 2 1/2 cups of grated italian cheese. You can use the good stuff, like parmigiano-reggiano, or if you're like me, and your little grocery store doesn't carry the good stuff, pick up the next best thing. I used Kraft Italian Blend, and it turned out just fabulous.

Traditionally, these nachos are served with chicken, ground Italian sausage, tomatoes, olives, pepperoncinis and jalapeƱos. I modified the recipe for my family, and you can easily do the same. We only used chicken, and eliminated the pepperoncinis and japs. However, they are delicious with the mixture of meats, we just had chicken on hand so it's what we used.

We love the simplicity of Schwan's fajita chicken, and found it worked perfectly in this dish. If you have a Schwan's man, order a bag of it from him! If you don't, you should definitely look into getting it delivered to your home. It's pre-cooked, pre-seasoned, frozen chicken pieces. All you do is heat some oil in a skillet, stir the babies around for 10 minutes, and you have delicious chicken ready to eat! Or you can pick up some pre-seasoned italian chicken in the deli section of your grocery store. Or cook up your own! The options are endless.

Now, let's get this show on the road!
First, take a stack of the wontons, and cut them in half on a diagonal, to form triangles. These will become your chips. And the angels will rejoice at the awesomeness of the chips you made.

Heat enough oil in a skillet for frying (about 1.5 - 2 cups). An easy trick to see if it's hot enough: slightly moisten your finger with water and flick it into the oil. If it sizzles, the oil is hot enough.

Peel apart the wontons and drop them into the hot oil. Be sure to get them all separated, and keep them from piling on top of each other in the skillet.
Let them cook about 45 seconds to 1 minute on each side. If your oil is scorching hot, it will take much less than that. You really just want to use your judgement here and not let them get too dark. (Like that chip on top.) I love dark, crispy chips, but in this recipe you want the middles to still be slightly white. Just make sure you get them crispy enough that they aren't chewy in the middle.

Next: let's make the sauce!
Slowly melt the butter in a saucepan. And please, do it slowly. It allows the butter to get kind of browned and makes the sauce out of this WORLD. It helps to talk like Paula Deen while you're doing this.

After the butter has melted, and you've fully embraced your inner Paula, mix in the flour and minced garlic. This folks, is the beginning of a beautiful sauce. It will make you slap your momma. So make sure she's in the other room.

Let this mixture cook for about 4 minutes, until it's thick. Be sure to stir it almost constantly. You don't want the little garlic pieces burning. Burnt garlic is no fun my friends.

Turn up the heat to medium/high and slowly stir in the half and half. Cook until the cream thickens up, about another 5 minutes or so.
Once the cream has thickened, remove the sauce from the heat and stir in your cheese. Try your hardest not to bury your face in the pan. A. It's just not couth. B. You'll burn your face and won't be able to enjoy the nachos.

A little tip: If you have someone who can help (a.k.a. Mom) have one person making the chips while the other is making the sauce. The nachos are best when the chips are fresh and hot, and the sauce is right off the stove. If you let the sauce sit, it will get globby, and you'll have to mix in some extra cream or milk to get it creamy again.

Now all that's left is assembly!
Pile some chips on a plate, and cover them with chicken. Spoon the homemade alfredo sauce over the top, and sprinkle tomatoes and olives on it. (You can add the japs and peppers here if you're into that sort of thing.)

Or if you're like me, skip the olives and add extra tomatoes. Olives are weird. Sprinkle some grated cheese over the top (that you reserved) and chow down.

These nachos will rock your world. I promise. I died a couple times from the sheer awesomeness of the sauce, and the crispiness of the chips.

And the leftover sauce I have...that's going on some penne, or maybe on some linguini. I might even slap it on some focaccia and make an italian grilled cheese! The possibilities are endless.

So see, I really gave you two recipes. Nachos, and homemade Alfredo sauce.

You're welcome. It's the least I can do.

-Jenn (With 2 N's)

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