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Queso Queen

I can be merry any day of the week when I remember that I know how to make my own queso dip and am therefore not reliant upon a restaurant’s unsubstantial serving size nor a packaged product’s preservatives. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

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On the other hand, I do love having queso handed right over to me when I’m at a restaurant (or better, when I’m picking up to-go food from a restaurant and can eat it on the couch, while watching a political documentary).  It’s funny, I never really got into queso until I lived in the south. Before then, I had queso occasionally, but it wasn’t my go-to order at a Mexican restaurant. California’s top-notch Mexican restaurants might be to blame for that, but once I fell in love with Atlanta’s faux-Mexican and Latin-American fusion, my queso consumption skyrocketed.

An aside: It feels weird writing the word “queso” over and over again, since I know that it simply means cheese and is not restricted to the runny, lightly-spiced cheese that you dip tortilla chips in or pour over a burrito. I love all cheeses, to be frank (somewhere deep inside of me, the French citizen just perked up and lifted her nose, sniffing in search of a fromagerie).

To return to the impetus for this post, I’d like to explore the benefits of self-made queso. Let’s take Tostito’s medium Salsa Con Queso, for example. Here is a list of the ingredients:

Water, Nonfat Milk, Monterey Jack Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Corn Oil, Modified Food Starch, Diced Tomatoes in Tomato Juice, Jalapeno Peppers, Chili Peppers, Red Bell Peppers, Maltodextrin, Natural Flavors, Salt, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Monosodium Glutamate, Sodium Citrate, DATEM, Sodium Phosphate, Artificial Colors (Yellow 5, Yellow 6), Spice, and Soy Lecithin.

First of all, I don’t understand a few of those ingredients, so that’s an immediate red flag. Second of all, why would water be added to queso? I would guess that it’s added to substitute for cream (and in my case, the dash of chicken or veggie broth that I sometimes add). However, this means that the dissipation of flavor that water creates must be compensated for in less natural flavor additives. Finally, if it’s good enough of a product, it shouldn’t need to be colored. 

Now, let’s take my homemade queso into consideration:

No water, please! This queso begins with a simple roux made from flour (sub gluten-free flour if desired), heavy cream, and a dash of chicken broth. Once this has thickened, add the cheese, any desired spices (my favorites are cayenne and paprika), and a dash of salt (pepper too, if desired). Extra points if you add jalapeños! Garnish with any desired fresh ingredients that may include but are not limited to the following: onions, cilantro, tomatoes. 

By way of making it myself, my queso becomes meldable in a way that’s similar to the cheese melts into it. I can tweak it for that day’s desires, altering my quantities of spice or garnish for my bodily cravings. Furthermore, I am not injecting a plethora of undigestible (both mentally and physically) ingredients into my body. Now, I can indulge in as much as I want without worrying about how I’ll feel afterwords. 

And in case you were wondering, I did indeed eat the whole bowl of queso, pictured here, to myself! Happy cooking, y’all! 

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