Why brine? That's a great question!
Brining is a scientific process by which water/moisture is pulled into the fibers of the meat where it gets trapped. Some of the salt and other flavors in the brine are also pulled in.
During the cooking process, the heat tends to dry out the meat but because there is now more water trapped in the meat fibers, even after some drying, it ends up more juicy due to the extra water.
We often use plain water with salt (a 6% salt solution) but I like to use buttermilk with chicken.
Buttermilk and chicken go together so well! The buttermilk has enzymes that tenderize and flavor the chicken and if you mix salt into the mix, you can both brine and tenderize at the same time. It's a win-win for everyone!
This is a process that you can use on these chicken tenderloins but it also works equally well on chicken wings, whole chickens or even a whole turkey.
Pour one quart of buttermilk into a pitcher or plastic container.
Add ¼ cup of coarse kosher salt and stir until the salt is dissolved.
The brine mixture is ready to use.
Put the chicken tenderloins in a container or small bowl and generously sprinkle Jeff's original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) on one side.
Stir the chicken around to fully coat the chicken.
Pour the buttermilk brine over the chicken to cover.
Place the container of chicken into the fridge for 1 hour.. no more than that. If you need to leave them in longer for some reason, cut the salt in half.
At the end of 1 hour, pour off and discard the brine.
Rinse the chicken under cold water.
Place the chicken onto a flat surface such as a paper plate.
Liberally season both sides of the chicken tenderloins with my original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub).
Once both sides are coated with my rub, place the chicken on a Bradley rack or Weber grill pan and they are ready for the smoker.
Set up your smoker for cooking at about 225-240°F using indirect heat and pecan wood for smoke. You can use any other smoking wood that you have available if you don't have pecan.
If your smoker has a water pan, fill it up.
Once the smoker is ready, place the chicken in the smoker and set a timer for about 40 minutes.
If the chicken looks like it's drying out on the outside, spray it quickly with some olive oil or brush on some butter.
Check the pieces of chicken with an accurate quick reading thermometer such as the Thermapen.
Remember, using an accurate thermometer like the Thermapen is the only way to know when the chicken is safely done to the correct temperature.
These are usually fairly thin so it will only take about 60-90 minutes for them to reach 160°F.. their safe done temperature.
Just as soon as they are done, remove them from the smoker.
Use a sharp knife to cut the chicken into small pieces.
I recommend mixing in some of my barbecue sauce (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled sauce) for another layer of flavor but this is completely optional.
Just 2-3 of the tenderloins will be enough for about 24 scoops depending on how much chicken you use in each nacho.
I used 2 TBS of sauce for about 1.5 cups of shredded chicken but you can add more or less as desired.
In each bag of Scoops!® you'll find that some are broken so you may need to take a minute to pick out the best ones if presentation is important.
Lay the chips out onto a flat cookie sheet.
Spoon about a teaspoon of chicken into each chip then when all of the “tiny bowls” are filled, top them generously with the shredded cheese.
I used a mix of white cheddar and sharp yellow cheddar.
Turn on the broiler in your oven and place the pan of nachos under the broiler to let the cheese melt.
Make sure it does not burn.
Quickly add sour cream, guacamole, jalapeños, salsa, etc. onto the top of each nacho.
This process is best accomplished if you have some helpers.. kids love to help with things like this so enlist them and don't worry if a few pieces of this or that falls by the wayside.
I like using sliced jalapeños with the seeds still intact but if you have small eaters or those who don't like it very hot, you can use tame pickled jalapeños or leave out the peppers altogether.
Lay the pan out and let the hands start grabbin'!
If you are one of those that feels like these individual scoop nachos are just too much work.. you can do these the easy way by just laying down a bed of chips and sort of “dumping” everything on top. Meat first then the cheese. Melt that under the broiler for a minute or two then add the toppings.
Quick. Easy. No problem.