I’ve been walking around the Los Angeles International Airport (a place that feels like a city unto itself) in a sweatshirt that reads Tacos, Tequila, and Tan Lines. It’s not generally my style to wear clothing with written messages on them, mostly because I don’t want strangers looking at my body long enough to read and comprehend a message. That’s my own weird thing and I’ll just own it.
But this sweatshirt… well it’s comfortable, and it’s cute, and it’s swag (I struggle with that word) from my friend Whitney’s bachelorette party (I also struggle with these two words, too) this past weekend. The sweater went on this weekend and from both comfort and laziness, just hasn’t come off.
I’ll tell you something about wearing clothing with words on it. People read you. People likely make a judgement about you- and you find your people (or people find you). I ran across a girl in a similarly sentimented sweatshirt that read Tequila and Tacos, we pointed at one another… and we could have talked about tan lines if we weren’t (unfriendly LA strangers) rushing for flights.
Maybe I kinda liked that I left people with an impression of my enthusiasm for tacos and tequila and the impression that my pale body will hold a tan. Certainly, at least, this spicy, creamy, queso dip is on brand (and really delicious).
Here’s what you’ll need:
• corn chips are half of the deliciousness of this queso situation so either grab a bag of your favorite store-bought variety or (and better yet) make your own! Cut a stack of corn tortillas into equal-size wedges and give them a sizzling hot oil bath. Fresh from the bath they’ll take a generous showering of spiced salt and you can either step back and bask in your success or lean in and cautiously sample
• butter and flour to create a roux, or a thickening mixture so our queso has a thick and chip-sticking consistency.
• salt and pepper for obvious reasons
• whole milk and a monster amount of jack cheese because this saucy dip doesn’t make sense without it.
• jalapeños, a mega amount of pickled jalapeños from a jar, drained and coarsely chopped for a pickle-y and bright spice. You could leave the jalapeños out if you’d like but I’d encourage you to try at least some. Fresh jalapeños are another beast all together, adding a more intense spice and much more textural bite. I’d stick with the pickled sort.
I started by mixing together a mixture of kosher salt mixed with onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, smoky paprika, and ground cumin. In a deep skillet I heated a few inches of vegetable oil and fried the tortilla wedges until golden on both sides.
Simple, really. It’s a careful flip flop in hot oil. The crisp chips are immediately removed from the oil, placed on a wire rack (over some sort of pan or paper towel) and sprinkled generously in the seasoned salt. Toss and coat more if you’d like. The hot oil will help the seasoning and salt stick.
As the chips cool, they’ll crisp to crunchy.
Now to the creamy melted cheese show.
In a medium saucepan I melted a few good pats of butter, and slowly stirred flour into the melted butter. This might feel like an odd or awkward thing to do if you’ve never made a thickening roux before. Trust the process. You’ll have a thick, lightly golden, flour pasta. Whisk for just a few minutes to cook some of the flour taste out of the flour. Next trusting step is to slowly pour the milk into the thickened flour paste… whisking quickly and confidently while streaming in the milk.
In my experience, the mixture feels like it’s seizing then loosens to smooth once all the milk is added.
Over low heat the creamy mixture cooks down and thickens in about 4 minutes.
Cheese by the handful and chopped jalapeños by the half handful. Stir to melt and thicken
Dip in. Dive in. Pour a cold beer. Call a few friends… this is for sharing (mostly to save yourself from a queso stomach ache).
Also… consider the clever sweatshirt.
- 4 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- heaping 1/2 teaspoon smoky paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground chili powder
- 8 corn tortillas, each sliced into 6 triangular wedges
- vegetable oil for frying
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups grated jack cheese
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped pickled jalapeños
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a small bowl toss together salt and spices. Set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat about 2-inches of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. There’s no need for a fry thermometer here, just get the oil hot (this usually takes me about 5 minutes) and test the readiness of the oil by dipping in a tortilla piece. If the tortilla begins to actively sizzle then the oil is ready. If the tortilla is lazily sizzling, give the oil a few more minutes to heat.
- Add about 8 tortilla wedges at a time, being sure not to crown the skillet. Gently toss to fry both sides, cooking for about 2 minutes until deeply golden on both sides. Use a slotted, heatproof spoon or a pair of heatproof tongs to remove the crisped tortillas and place on a wire rack set over either a rimmed baking sheet or a few sheets of paper towel. Immediately toss with the seasoned salt. Continue to fry until all of the tortillas are crisp chips, seasoned well. Allow to cool.
- Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until no lumps remain and the mixture is a thick paste. Continue to whisk for 2 minutes. This will cook some of the flour taste out of the mixture.
- Slowly stream in the milk, whisking quickly and constantly. The mixture will appear to seize and lump up at first, but continue to add the milk and whisk vigorously. Once all of the milk is added, cook, whisking occasionally until the mixture has thickened slightly. It will be the consistency of thick soup.
- Add the grated cheese and chopped jalapeños. Stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is thickened. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.
- To enjoy, dip into chips. Try to share. It’s really very good.
- Serving Size: 4