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Na’Cho Average Party Snack

Nachos, nachos, man.

2011: Year of the Rabbit. Sure, that’s fun. But how about the Year of the Nacho?

Chips are a blank canvas. Load ‘em up with whatever you like, and bake. It’s the ultimate customizable snack. (Recite the following in your best Benjamin Buford Blue from Forest Gump voice) There’s Shrimp Nachos, Beef Nachos, Breakfast Nachos, Pork Nachos, Eggs Benedict Nachos, Buffalo Chicken Nachos, Spinach-Artichoke Nachos, Veggie Nachos, Seafood Nachos, S’Mores Nachos, Strawberry Shortcake Nachos . . . Nacho toppings are limited only by your imagination. And you don’t even need to use chips! Pretzels, bagel chips, pita chips, Triscuits — all nacho-worthy. There are surely enough nachos to have a different combo every single day for at least a year. (C’mon, who’s up for it?)

Since Super Bowl season is basically nacho season, the watercooler chatter at the Cooking Channel and Food Network offices has been themed around who tops the best chips. Naturally, a competition was in order, thus the idea for the First Annual Nacho Cook-Off was born. Take 8 different nachos, a few celebrity judges, and some healthy competition, and you have an average afternoon at the office for us.

Sunny Anderson, host of Food Network’s Cooking for Real, Kelsey Nixon of Kelsey’s Essentials, and Claudia Sidoti, Senior Recipe Developer at Food Network Kitchens (she worked on Food Network Magazine’s 50 Nachos booklet!) stopped by the office to judge the cook-off. They tried each of the 8 contestants’ nachos, deliberated in a private room and announced the winner and runner up.

Celebrity judges Sunny Anderson, Kelsey Nixon and Claudia Sidoti taste the nacho entries.

There’s no such thing as a bad nacho, right? Judging must have been tough.

The Nachos

Buffalo Chicken Nachos With Blue Cheese Sauce:

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Nachos:

Carnitas Nachos with Green Sauce:

Chili Dog Nachos:

“Nacho” Jalapeno-Corn Muffins Stuffed with Pulled Pork:

Chorizo Nachos with Avocado Cream Sauce:

Pulled Pork Nacho Bites With Slaw & Pickles:

Tater Tot Nachos:

The judges came back from their deliberation session with feedback for every contestant: They loved how the cheese bonded the Tater Tot Nachos together so they were like one big, delicious tot; the Butternut Squash Nachos nachos blew their collective minds; and the Buffalo Chicken Nachos were a delicious way to blend two favorite Super Bowl foods. But the top nacho prize went to CookingChannelTV.com‘s Alison Sickelka for her Carnitas Nachos. Roberto Ferdman also from Cooking Channel, took second place with his Chorizo Nachos .

Roberto and Alison, second and first place winners, respectively pose with their "I'm a Winner" buttons.

Like there’s no such thing as a bad nacho, there are no losers in a Nacho Cook-Off. Each competitor got a gift card to the Food Network Store, and a nacho tote bag from NachosNY. And everyone at the office won a nachos-filled afternoon. Plus, a little heartburn.

Are you serving nachos today for Super Bowl? Find everything you need right here at Big Game Headquarters.

Photographs by Kirsten Vala, Christi Willette and Chris Castelonia.

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