The only thing better than a great beer is eating the perfect food for that particular brew. Enter Beer Bites, a cookbook companion for your craft beer cravings by the dream team of cookbook author Andrea Slonecker and writer/brewer Christian DeBenedetti. Beyond your typical pub grub is enlightened fare for people who love good beer, and duck carnitas nachos definitely qualifies.
In this game-changing rendition of a brewpub staple, duck legs, rather than the typical pork shoulder, are given the carnitas treatment. The duck is braised with orange peel in malty Mexican beer (a Vienna lager style, technically speaking) until tender, then the cooking liquid is reduced until almost nothing is left but the rendered fat used to fry the moist duck meat.
The real art of nachos is in the assembly. We like to put them on a large rimmed baking sheet in two layers so that every single chip gets coated in the toppings. This makes for one wickedly large pile of nachos to share with friends — wow them on game day with this decadent upgrade.
For the beer pairing, Vienna lager — on the malty end of the light and crisp beer spectrum — makes a smooth companion for any plate of nachos. Especially, we’d say, ones that feature stewed meat; in the best versions of these beers, bitterness and sweetness are in balance, with delicate hopping levels that are ideal for savory, spicy flavors. An obvious choice is Negra Modelo, but if you can find a craft brewed (albeit slightly heavier) version of Vienna lager, such as Samuel Adams Boston Lager or Great Lakes Eliot Ness, go for it. The nachos will abide.
Our recommended brews: Samuel Adams Boston Lager (Boston Beer Company); Negra Modelo (Grupo Modelo; Eliot Ness (Great Lakes); Lincoln Park Lager (Goose Island); Special Amber (Sprecher).
- 1 dried New Mexico chile
- 3 pound duck legs, rinsed
- 2 pieces fresh orange peel, each about 3/4 inch wide and 2 inches long
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
- 1 12-ounce bottle Vienna lager
- 1 pound thick corn tortilla chips
- 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 1/2 pounds shredded Mexican-style four-cheese blend
- 2 jalapeño chilies, thinly sliced
- 4 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
- 2 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
- 6 thinly sliced radishes
- Salsa, Mexican crema or sour cream and lime wedges for serving
For the carnitas and nachos
Heat a small, heavy, dry skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chile and toast, turning occasionally, until puffy and deep brownish-red but not black, 2 to 3 minutes. Stem and halve the chile, discard the seeds, and chop finely. Set aside.
Nestle the duck legs in a heavy pot just large enough to fit them snugly in a single, slightly overlapping layer. Add the toasted chile, orange peel, garlic, and salt. Pour in the lager, then add enough water to barely cover (it’s okay if a few points protrude). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn the heat to medium-low and partially cover the pot. Simmer gently until the meat is tender enough to shred with a fork, about 1½ hours. Transfer the duck legs to a cutting board using tongs.
Discard the orange peels from the braising liquid. Raise the heat to high and boil until the liquid is almost completely evaporated and about all that’s left is the duck fat, about 10 minutes. (First the bubbles will become large and foamy, and then the foam will begin to subside.)
Meanwhile, shred the meat into bite-size chunks and finely chop the skin. Discard any excess fat and the bones.
Return the duck meat and skin to the pot and fry over medium heat until the meat is browned and crisp on the outside but still moist and tender inside, about 20 minutes. Stir often, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pot. Drain the meat in a colander (or lift it from the fat with a slotted spoon). (The carnitas can be made up to 1 week in advance and stored in the refrigerator, covered in the fat. When you are ready to assemble the nachos, reheat the meat in a small saucepan, and then drain off the fat.)
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Spread about half of the tortilla chips in an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Top with about half each of the duck, the beans, and the cheese. Repeat to create a second layer. Scatter the jalapeños on top.
Bake the nachos until the cheese is melted and just beginning to brown in spots, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with the green onions, then the cilantro, and then the radishes. Serve immediately with the salsa, crema, and lime wedges on the side.