A classic queso dip. Photo courtesy Kraft
Unlike turkey for Thanksgiving or ham and lamb for Easter, there are no “traditional” Cinco de Mayo foods. Anything Mexican or Tex-Mex goes.
What is a regional holiday in Mexico commemorates the 1862 victory of a small and poorly-equipped Mexican militia led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin over the much larger French army at The Battle Of Puebla. It temporarily stopped the French invasion of the country.
Cinco de Mayo is actually a bigger event in the U.S., thanks to promotions from Mexican restaurants and Americans’ love of Mexican food.
If you don’t want to go all-out, you can have salsa, chips and a Margarita or a Mexican beer at home. Or, make a warm, creamy queso dip (queso is the Mexican word for cheese), also known as chile con queso.
According to Bobby McGee of Jardine’s, our favorite fine salsa producer, queso dip is a Tex-Mex invention of the 20th century. It can take the form of a spread or a warm dip with tortilla chips.
Cheese has always been a costly ingredient. To stretch the cheese, some clever cook added chopped vegetables.
In the best recipes, a semisoft cheese is melted into a smooth mixture with, for example, sour cream and/or butter for a smooth texture and cornstarch for body. Chopped vegetables or salsa are added for “stretch” and flavor.
Shortcut recipes mix a block of Velveeta or American cheese with a can of Ro-Tel Tomatoes & Diced Green Chilies. Instead of processed cheeses like these—or buying supermarket brands made with them—whip up your own, more flavorful, queso dip with asadero, Cheddar or Jack cheese.
Asadero is a semisoft cheese often used for melting: a smooth, yellow cheese reminiscent of Provolone, with a bit of zest and tang. It’s often sliced or shredded to use for quesadillas or other sandwiches, and it’s a favorite for nachos and queso dips.
Check out the different types of Mexican cheeses.
Here’s a recipe adapted from The Homesick Texan Cookbook by Michelle of BrownEyedBaker.com:
RECIPE: QUESO DIP
Ingredients For 2 Cups
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup chopped yellow onion
2 serrano chiles, seeds and stems removed, diced
1 jalapeño chile, seeds and stems removed, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk or half-and-half
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained (about 1 cup)
12 ounces cheddar cheese, grated (about 3 cups)
12 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated (about 3 cups)
½ cup sour cream
Optional: 1 teaspoon ground cumin
Tortilla chips, raw vegetables or hot flour tortillas for dipping
A delicious, from-scratch queso dip. Photo courtesy BrownEyedBaker.com.
1. MELT the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, serrano chiles and jalapeño; cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
2. WHISK the flour into the pan and cook for about 30 seconds. Slowly pour the milk into the pan while whisking, and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce has thickens, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and tomatoes.
3. REDUCE the heat to low, and add the grated cheeses a ¼ cup at a time, stirring after each addition, until it is completely melted. Repeat until all of the cheese has been added. Stir in the sour cream until completely combined. Serve immediately with tortilla chips. Leftover queso can be refrigerated for up to 5 days, and reheated when you’re ready to serve.