The Big Nacho Interview: Corey Cova Talks Napoleon Dynamite, Yankee Stadium, and White Guy Mole Nachos

The ABV chef takes a stand against the "scandalous" state of ball-game nachos.

  • Click through the gallery to see Cova build his nachos step-by-step. (All photos by Liz Barclay)
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When it comes to curds, Corey Cova has the Midas touch. At Earl’s Beer and Cheese, a cubbyhole-size craft beer bar on the far reaches of the Upper East Side, the Momofuku alum and former U.S. Navy submarine cook blew minds with creations like the NY State Cheddar—a grilled cheese stuffed with kimchi and pork belly—and the best beer cheese this side of Prague.

Now cooking around the block at Earl’s larger sister restaurant, ABV, Cova works with an expanded palette but still has a knack for turning out cheese-laced plates that deftly toe the lowbrow-highbrow divide.

We’ve always secretly wished that Cova would unleash his talents on the great American nacho platter, and this year our dream is finally coming true. When we heard that he’s putting venison-mole nachos on the ABV menu to celebrate the Super Bowl, we hightailed it uptown to see what they’re all about, and to chop it up with Cova about his personal history with chips and cheese.

What is your nacho philosophy?
My philosophy on nachos is to just look for balance. Being able to control the amount of sauces and making sure they’re evenly distributed is really important for me. This goes for flavors as well—if your guac has garlic, that doesn’t mean your pico needs it as well. I may have over-thought my plating approach [on the White Guy Mole Nachos], but I just like it when there’s not one bite of your nachos that’s soggy or has too much of any given ingredient.

What are your best and worst nacho memories?
I had a lot of shitty nachos growing up, so I was always more of a Frito pie fella. When I got out of the Navy, I was super depressed, still walking with a limp from knee surgery, and Napoleon Dynamite was on DVD. Since I’d been living on a submarine I had no idea what that movie was. Anyway, I watched it and saw the nacho scene and decided it looked easy enough for me to do. It was before I went to cooking school, so I just raided my mom’s fridge and threw something together. I remember grated cheese, a microwave, Tostitos, grilled chicken, and a generic brand of salsa; but that day finally turned me on to nachos. I may have built that day up in my mind to be something it wasn’t, but I’ll always remember those as my favorite, if not the best, nachos I’ve ever had.

What’s your nacho
My biggest pet peeve is when these chumps at Yankee Stadium think they can still get away with their early ’90s version of ball-game nachos. In this day and age, I find that scandalous. I was so shocked when I went to my first game at this place, had a good buzz going in the bleachers, got up to feast, and ended up with a very disrespectful plate of stale chips and bland guacamole. It’s my biggest pet peeve with most food I guess—people selling and making food with no interest in ever improving it. Oh, and soggy chips. I hate soggy chips.

White Guy Mole Nachos

White Guy Mole
1/2 onion chopped
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 cinnamon sticks, toasted
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp black pepper corns
1T sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp chili powder
3 tomatillos, chopped
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp curry raisin puree
1 tbsp chipotle in adobo
3 dried guajillo chilis, seeds removed
3 dried pasilla chilis, seeds removed
1 tbsp coffee beans
2 tbsp cocoa nibs
3 tbsp dried pumpkin seeds
12 oz Left Hand Milk Stout
12 oz water

Simmer everything overnight with a quartered chicken, then remove the chicken, blend the mole, and strain. When you’re ready to build the nachos, season ground venison meat with mole and whisk in pot until meat is cooked.

Black Bean Puree
16 oz cooked black beans
Onion and garlic
Salt
Water

Sweat the onion and garlic, then add the beans and a bit of water and mix in a food processor.

Cheese sauce (cheddar Mornay with Sriracha)
1/2 lb butter
1 pt flour, cooked to a roux of medium color
Warm milk (for roux)
2 qt grated cheddar
2 tbsp garlic powder
5 tbsp Sriracha
Salt

Some milk is whisked into the roux until you get a soup-like consistency, then everything else is added until it looks like it belongs on some fries at Shake Shack.

Guacamole
3 avocados, diced
2 tbsp jicama, diced
4 cloves of garlic, diced
1 tbsp onion, diced
3 tbsp chopped cilantro
3 limes, juiced
Salt

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.

Pico de gallo
2 tomatoes, diced
2T scallion, sliced
1T ginger, diced
1/2 tomatillo, diced
1T shallot, diced
1T lime juice
Sugar
Salt

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.

Chips
Regular corn tortillas, quartered and fried

Other garnishes
Sour cream, sliced jalapeños, and grated cotija cheese

EAT THESE NACHOS! Cova says, “I’ll be getting eight pound of venison in this weekend, so the original idea was to sell these bad boys on Sunday and see where it goes from there. If they do exceptionally, we’ll keep on forever.” ABV, 1504 Lexington Ave at 97th St (212-722-8959, abvny.com)

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