Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Queso!: Regional Recipes for the World's Favorite Chile-Cheese Dip by Lisa Fain

Readers, you may wonder if you (or I) need a cookbook full of cheese dip recipes. I would have to say yes. But then again, I'm a bit of a queso fiend!

Lisa Fain, aka the Homesick Texan, has a brand spanking new cookbook out and it's devoted entirely to the ooey gooey goodness that is queso. Cheesy, meaty, and even vegan, Fain's cookbook has it all.

It's interesting, and maybe a little eye opening, to realize that queso as I know it is such a Tex-Mex thing. Fain talks about moving from Texas to New York and discovering that the prevalence of even the basics for making queso were much less abundant in NYC in those days. It's also interesting to learn that there really is so much variation in the dish when traveling from region to region, even within Texas itself. And Fain explores all of those varieties!

The book begins with a breakdown of the basics - chiles and cheese and the abundance of difference choices between the two. Fain then jumps into a history of the dish, outlining some of the earliest references and recipes.

The recipes range from, as I mentioned, traditional cheese, tomato, and peppers variety akin to the Ro-Tel we all know and love - thanks to Lady Bird Johnson herself (though Fain notes the Johnson recipe calls for cheddar, which doesn't quite melt the way you want for true queso - and her note on that recipe makes sense as well) - to runnier saucier versions (the Arkansa Cheese Dip, for example). There are also thicker varieties like the Van Horn Chile Con Queso, which called for Muenster cheese, and Queso Fundido with Squash Blossoms.

There's a whole chapter on quirky quesos that includes the likes of Austin-Style Vegan Queso (for those who can't eat cheese and miss the wondrous concoction), a Chilled Chile Con Queso with Avocado (courtesy of an El Paso Junior League cookbook that calls for cottage cheese!), and even an Indian Queso with Jalapeño Chutney.

There are quesos with meat in them too. Like the Choriqueso with chorizo mixed in, Queso with Beef Picadillo, and Boudin Queso that even has a recipe for homemade boudin (which I've not tried because we have ours shipped home from Louisiana).

In addition to the queso, there are accompaniments as well - Tortilla Chips and Puff Tostadas (which are AMAZING with queso), homemade Pickled Jalapeños, which you need to make the bean dip part of the Bean Dip Queso, and Chile Jam (aka Pepper Jelly) for a surprising Green Chile & Cream Cheese Ice Cream Sundaes recipe. And then there are recipes for using the queso!

In the time since I got my hands on a copy, I've tried at least half a dozen varieties. My garden this summer produced just enough poblanos, anaheims, and jalapeños that it made sense to try a new recipe just about every weekend - I mean, I had to spread them out so I didn't catch too much flak for eating cheese dip every day. I totally would have otherwise :) The Damn Good Queso which claims to be a copycat version of a taco joint's famous queso and includes recipes for both a Green Chile Salsa Verde, Guacamole, and Fiery Red Salsa (which is amazing by itself too) is in my top two. Amazingly, or not, my favorite one so far is the queso base for the Bean Dip Queso!

Whether you're a fan of the traditional tailgating variety we all know and love or queso fundido. Whether you like yours spicy or mild. And whether you prefer it with meat, veggies, seafood, or straight up cheese only, Fain has something for you.

There are, if you're interested, a few recipes out in the wild that you can try. Fain herself has shared the Chili Parlor Queso on her blog. You can also check out this Houston Chronicle article, which includes four recipes!

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