By Kendra Murray.
Not to be dramatic, but cold weather is the bane of my existence. I am not a winter person. I do not willingly use air conditioning in the summer, and I start dreading the winter as soon as the crisp fall air starts moving in around mid-September. The leaves begin falling from the trees, the days shorten, and I start counting the days until the summer solstice. I struggle to find anything to love about cold weather.
I’ll grudgingly admit that being trapped indoors for several months at least gives me a lot more time to devote to cooking, which I do enjoy. The warmth from the hot stove helps, too. As time seems to slow, no longer do I have to worry about pulling weeds in the garden or tackling other outdoor chores. I can stand in front of the stove, experiment with recipes, and not feel the nagging need to be doing other things.
Winter also means the return of comfort foods to the table. This cuisine should be the exact opposite of what the season is: warming, hearty, and nourishing. To me, winter meals are not just hot, filling, and enjoyable, but they often provide another dimension of comfort—nostalgia and familiarity. Dishes like macaroni and cheese, kale soup, and pot pie definitely fit the bill.
One dish that I think is perfect on a cold winter day is my take on a traditional Mexican staple, what I call Irish nachos. Maybe nachos aren’t what most people would think of as a comfort food, but it’s a dish I’ve always loved and it definitely ticks off the nostalgia box for me (plus it’s covered in cheese, which is always a plus). What makes them Irish? Well, they aren’t exactly Irish, per se, but since I’ve replaced the tortilla chips with potatoes, the name seems justified. Potatoes are perfect in this recipe, as you can still find local potatoes in the winter and they result in a more substantial dish.
I do like to incorporate a little bit of summer into these nachos. When my garden was exploding earlier in the year, my mother shared an amazing salsa recipe with me which turned my “Polish Linguisa” tomatoes into jars of spicy goodness. I also spent a lot of time pickling jalapeños and Portuguese hot peppers. I usually have a few jars of each still kicking around in the back of the fridge somewhere, but it’s easy enough to whip up a fresh batch of salsa or hit the market for a jar if you want to simplify the dish.
I have included a queso sauce, but these nachos are just as delicious with melted shredded cheese. The potatoes can be fried or baked, but if we’re going for comfort here, I definitely recommend frying. This is a great dish to share with family and friends, but in a post-COVID world, it’s acceptable to eat an entire plate by yourself. No judgment – just comfort.
Kendra Murray spends the long, cold winter over a hot stove. When not cooking, you can find her curled up under a blanket with her cats, a cup of coffee, and a good book.