Quest for Queso

Bowl of chili con queso

If you have never had queso, the melted cheese dip that you can pair with just about anything, don't. You will regret it immediately, especially if you are on vacation and queso is not found in the place you call home. You will find yourself craving queso with no way to satiate it.

Different countries have different foods, some traditional and some brought over from other parts of the world and sometimes you will find food fusions. Even in the United States there are some foods you cannot find in every state. In Texas, we love our chili con queso, commonly known as just "queso". For those of you who are unfamiliar with the majestic dip, it is an appetizer or side dish typically made of melted pasteurized cheese, chili pepper and tomato, you will undoubtedly find variations to this, but this is the most common recipe. Though this dip is amazingly delicious it isn't the healthiest snack you can have, so eat it in moderation, or not, it's your life. My favorite thing to do on a Friday after a long week of teaching was join a friend at a restaurant, consume our weight in chips and queso and wash them down with margaritas.

When I was preparing to move to London, I did not think of all the things I would miss but rather all the things I would gain a loving husband, the experience of living, working and building my life in another country, new friends and great in-laws, wonderful new experiences, cheaper flights to European countries and so much more. However, after being here for a few months I am starting to miss the foods back home, the the authentically tex-mex tacos, taco truck tacos, breakfast tacos. Well, I guess I just missed tacos and queso.

This is my story of how I attempted to find the perfect queso recipe with the ingredients I can find in London.

The queso craving first hit about 1.5 months about being here, I was scrolling through Instagram and someone had posted a photo of queso. Like any good Texan I googled "queso in London", which led me to many Mexican restaurants but non with chili con queso. No problem I thought, I'll just make some. I google a recipe, because I know I won't find Velveeta out here, add the ingredients to my shopping list and set out to make queso!

First ingredient, American cheese, which I now realize is processed cheese, I never really gave it much thought, and which they do not carry. I frantically google for a substitute cheese that will give the creamy texture queso needs. Nothing. So I go home feeling defeated and sad but I keep it in the back of my mind, one day I will find the right cheese.

A few months after this I make a trip back to Texas and eat my weight in tacos and queso. I spend time with friends and lament about the lack of queso in London until one friend tells me of a solution. Now let me just say right here, I am not the best chef you will meet, but I can follow a recipe like no other and the food comes out amazing, but I do everything by the (cook)book. This friend tells me he encounter a similar situation when living in Norway and found a resolution, béchamel sauce. DUH! Not a month before I left I made a deliciously creamy mac and cheese and I did not think to use those same steps to make creamy queso. You can only imagine the look on my face when all the pieces fell into place. So, I added a couple cans of Ro-Tel to my suitcase and here is what happened.

Ingredients for chili con queso

I gathered all my ingredients. I had to send the Captain down to the Tesco Express to get some milk. We have butter, flour, milk, a block of mild cheddar cheese, a can of Ro-Tel and of course Tostitos tortilla chips to shovel the queso into our faces.

Béchamel sauce

I first made a béchamel sauce, as my friend suggested. I used the same instructions as the one I made for the mac and cheese. You can find it here, but it is basically just some butter, milk and flour until you get a creamy consistency. Add the flour little by little and incorporate it into the melted butter then slowly add the milk. The picture above already has some shredded cheddar in it. (I forgot to take a photo or just the béchamel...oops).

After you have your creamy béchamel slowly add and stir in the shredded cheese. I had to add a bit more milk after I added all my cheese.

Melted cheese with Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and green chilies

Once the cheese and béchamel were incorporated and the consistency looked right I added the Ro-Tel one spoonful at a time. I was hoping to only use half the can but it turned out I made too much cheese and had to add the whole can. It wasn't until after everything was said and done did I think about the presentation and a garnish. Next time I will add some cilantro and maybe some diced onions. This time I just added sliced green onion.

Finished product of the chili con queso

Now to taste test. My husband was the first to try it, mostly because I wanted a decent photo but also because I was a little worried about being disappointed.

My husband being a Brit not growing up eating chili con queso, he loved it. He ate quite a bit of it. He did mention that it was a bit grainy but that the taste was good. He also loves anything I make.

Once I was satisfied with the photos I got a chip and dipped it. It was grainy and could have used a bit more flavor. The amount of cheese I made is way less than what comes out of a block of Velveeta but the flavor of the Ro-Tel seemed to disappear behind the flavor of the cheese.

All-in-all, it was passable but can be better. I already have a plan for my second attempt so keep your eye out for my next quest for queso.



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