There are not many things in this world that are better than cheese. I can really get down on a nice cheese board with a stunning variety of textures and flavors. In a different post we will discuss the ultimate cheese board, and we will also go into detail about those fantastic "crystals" you find in some aged cheeses. Until then... We are going to discuss the Mexican flair of cheese: QUESO!!
Oh queso, how I adore you. Silky decadence with herb and spices... I'm trying not to drool over here. I have had many varieties of queso as it is one of my favorites to try when we go out for a good margarita and chips and salsa. I just find it exciting and comforting to try every take on this classic dip. Trust me when I tell you I have had some very rough experiences with queso, but do you think that has stopped my undying love? Absolutely not!!
The queso recipe I am sharing with you today is a cherished family recipe. My Dad got me hooked on this since I was old enough to dip my own chips! I can clearly remember sitting in our sunken dining room in our very first house around a large wood dining set. I can see the memory clear as day down to the light-colored tile floors, and the arched walls that glimpsed towards the entry way. It was a weekend and we were all home. Dad brought out this dish of queso that had bits of perfectly crisped ground beef, fresh salsa swirled throughout, and the perfect balance of Spanish spices. Yes, I realize I was a tiny human, but I remember the first bite. We couldn't get enough! And yes, it was made with the classic Velveeta. I find Velveeta to be necessary in certain situations. I know it is fake, processed cheese product but, for queso it is a must!!
This is going to be a two-recipe day, hooray!! You cannot make this dip without FRESH salsa. Plus, you need that wonderful salsa on the side for alternating dipping opportunities. I am going to share my favorite roasted tomato salsa recipe that has a perfect pop of smokey chipotle. It is lightly roasted, so the flavors are very developed and ready to enjoy right away! You can always make the salsa a day ahead of time as it only gets better when it has time to sit and soak in all the seasonings. This salsa really enhances the queso and goes very nicely with the seasoned ground beef. You can absolutely leave the beef out of this queso recipe, but I highly recommend trying it!
We love to make this dip and bring it to parties. Everyone falls in love! So, I hope you enjoy this cheesy decadence, and if you are so inclined, enjoy it with a refreshing margarita!
· 8 oz. ground beef
· 1 lb. Velveeta, cubed
· ½ cup half and half for thinning
· 1 and 1/2 cups fresh salsa
· ¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro
· ¼ cup pickled jalapeno juices plus some jalapeno slices (from the jar)
· 1 and 1/2 tsp. chili powder
· ¾ tsp. cumin
· Pinch of pepper
· ½ tsp. garlic powder
· ¼ tsp. onion powder
· Squeeze of fresh lime (1/2-1 depending on lime size)
1. In a medium pot on medium high, cook ground beef. Sprinkle the beef with chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, and pinch of pepper. Adjust seasonings to your liking.
2. Once the beef is fully cooked, add in Velveeta, salsa, cilantro, jalapeno juices, and jalapeno slices. Turn heat to medium low to gently melt the cheese stirring frequently.
3. Once the cheese is all melted, let the flavors cook in for a few minutes. Then, add in half in half until desired consistency. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lime and serve with your favorite chips!
Roasted Tomato Salsa:
· 7 tomatoes
· 1/4 c. diced onion
· 2 garlic cloves
· Half a jalapeno, seeded
· ¼ cup cilantro
· Half a lime, juiced
· 1/3 c. water (if needed to thin consistency)
· Salt and pepper to taste
· 1 Tablespoon chipotle in adobo sauce
· ¼ tsp. cumin
· ¼ tsp. chili powder
· Pinch of onion and garlic powder
1. Slice the tomatoes in half and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment. Bake in the oven on broil until they are lightly roasted. Then, let cool.
2. Transfer cooled tomatoes to a blender and add in onion, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, chipotle, and seasonings. Taste to adjust seasonings and add water if salsa is too thick. Enjoy!