The Cross-Checker: Revisiting Kalua Pork Nachos

As opening day nears and you prepare for the first fight between the Padres and Dodgers,  I have the perfect recipe for you . . .

Back in November, as a defiant alternative to the Pork Belly Nachos offered at Petco Park, Geoff Young wrote a glowing scouting report on Kalua Pork Nachos grading them as a versatile dish. In his own words, Young commented:

OFP Grade: 60+; first-division appetizer that can also serve as an entree

This is all well and good but an organization cannot thrive on the opinion of just one man. A diversity of expert culinary opinions are warranted when reviewing the potential of a dish. After the initial report is filed by an area scout (GY) it is incumbent upon the man with the final say to come in and present his evaluation – in scouting parlance this man is referred to as the cross-checker (ME).

In Kevin Kerrane’s seminal piece on baseball scouting, Dollar Sign on the Muscle, fans are introduced to the world of scouting in professional baseball. In addition to an extensive history lesson dating back to the first decade of the 20th century readers are treated to an intimate picture of the scouting landscape as the champion Philadelphia Phillies prepared for the 1981 June Amateur draft.

Integral to the field of scouting, as explained by Kerrane, is that of cross-checker – the scout with the final word on whether or not an organization will pull the trigger and draft a ‘boy‘.

As the cross-checker my job entails using the same recipe used by the area scout and evaluating the upside of the dish. My observations of the Kalua Pork Nachos were similar to those of Mr. Young but my experience with the dish was that its game played-up on account of some additional factors absent during Young’s meal. I’ve also cooked it twice so I have a strong sense of what can go wrong when the dish doesn’t have its best stuff.

Kalua Pork Nachos 3

Kalua Pork Nachos Date tasted: 2/21/2014
Recipe? Yes Filed by/date: AJM, 3/27/2014

Description

A fantastic meal reminiscent of the pork one might find at an excellent Mexican restaurant like Case de Pico, formerly of Old Town and currently located in La Mesa. While pork can be a heavy meal this dish receives its balance with the right mix of secondaries (onion, tomato, avocado). As this meal spends the day slow cooking, the aroma wafting through the house will leave your prospective guests’ mouths watering for hours on end and when it finally comes time to eat they will view you as a messianic-like figure. Cook this meal and you will become legend.

Pork

There’s no doubt, as GY said, this dish is all about the pork. Using the slow cooker I cooked the pork butt a little longer than Geoff did, about 5 hours*. The slow cooker adds to the hype of the dish as the smoky scent permeates the kitchen leaving guests in painful anticipation of what they are about to experience. Is there fat in this dish? Sure but it’s Opening Day and you didn’t come here for a healthy alternative. Dig in and enjoy yourself. The next morning, mix the leftover shredded pork with eggs for breakfast and then cleanse your body with fresh vegetables and lean meat for the following five days. You’ll live.*I’ve cooked on high for 5 hours and low for 8 hours – best results came with the former.Grade: Present 70/Future 70

Chips

Chips matter. With heaps of shredded pork you need a chip that can hold the weight. You can go with a store bought chip but they need to be the kind made by a local taqueria. A place like Major Market in Escondido will have these chips on hand or you can just hit up your local taco shop to buy the chips. Buy Tostitos or some other mainstream brand and you’ll be courting disaster.Grade: Present 50/Future 50

Cheese

Cheddar’s where it’s at. You could buy it in a bag or go big with a brick and shred that stuff yourself.Grade: Present 50/Future 55

Other

When I made this dish I heeded GY’s advice, adding diced onions, tomatoes, and a metric shit-ton of avocado which caused this dish to soar. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of these ingredients as they serve to balance out a meat that’s spent the day soaking in it’s own fat. These secondary ingredients help the dish reach it’s potential. In an effort to be true to the recipe I tried a sour cream/ Cholula mixture, going heavy on the Cholula. I dug it. You want salsa? Go for it. It goes without saying that you’ll be drinking a few beers while you eat these nachos. What should you drink? Anything you want. I picked up a growler of Ballast Point’s Victory at Sea but on Opening Day, and with a plate full of pork, I don’t think you can go wrong with any beer that you choose.Grade: Present 65/Future 65

Overall

With as amazing as this dish is it practically makes itself once you get it started. Once it’s ready kick back, enjoy the Opener and bask in the adulation heaped upon you for a meal well done.I’m in agreement with GY on his overall grade for the Kalua Pork Nachos:

OFP Grade: 60+; first-division appetizer that can also serve as an entree

But I disagree with his assessment of risk:

Risk factor: None. This dish will never be 80 grade but it has a tremendously high floor. Even on a bad day Kalua Pork Nachos will bring the goods.

***

I contribute to Padres Public on Thursday mornings and when I’m hungry. I can also be found on twitter at @AvengingJM. The dusty archives of AJM are located at avengingjm.blogspot.com

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  • Sac Bunt Melvin

    5 hours of smelling the deliciousness seems almost a punishment. I’m not good with patience.

    • VM David

      Think of it as tension buil…you know what? Never mind.

  • VM David

    I’ve only made this once, but I went 75/25 Cheddar and Cotija cheese. Damned good stuff.

    Another suggestion I would make is with the chips: go with chips that are very light on the salt, as there’s more than enough in everything else.