You Didn't Hear This from Me, Okay?
I'm afraid, readers, that I really must insist that today's post be off the record. If you make the dish that I'm about to describe, you can't tell anyone that you got it from me. If you link to this post, I will deny it, and if anyone asks, I will simply say that when I clicked on your link, I was taken to the home page for American Society for the Prevention of Split Infinitives, and how, after all, can you trust someone whose mission in life is to arbitrarily and wrongfully prevent the sensible splitting of infinitives? Then I will cast aspersions on your ability to punctuate and claim that you are wholly unable to use apostrophes correctly. So this post is entirely entre nous, ok?
Because, after all, there are certain culinary practices that one cannot condone. If you were to read, for example, that I was using margarine, would you not be shocked? Well, thank God that it hasn't come to that, but you might not be any less shocked to see me admit (while I simultaneously deny, of course) making a recipe that involves both canned soup and pasteurized process cheese spread (rhymes with "Melmeeta").
So credit this recipe instead to where most of the credit is really due. I have, as I always do, made certain changes that I believe to be improvements, and that would probably be considered significant by most readers, but the recipe that I took as a departure point is already very good, and while you could easily tell the two apart in a side-by-side taste test, if you were given one today and the other a week from now, you would probably think that you were eating the same thing.
I originally purchased Michael McLaughlin's The Manhattan Chilly Co. Southwest-American Cookbook out of frustration with my inability to make decent chili. I have probably written about that frustration before, and I have since overcome it, so I won't re-rehash some of the chili disasters of my youth, but when I acquired the cookbook (probably in the late 1980s), I was looking to get some chili mojo going. I don't think I ever made any of the chili recipes from this book, though the recipes look very good, and I have doubtless incorporated some of his advice when I have made decent chili. But I have certainly, on many occasions, made his Salsa Fresca recipe, which always receives high praise. And, on even more occasions, I've made Chile con Queso.
The Manhattan Chilly Co. Southwest-American Cookbook is a very well written cookbook, which, I'm sure, is why I find myself picking it up even when I have no intention of making anything in its pages. The introduction to the Chile con Queso recipe reads, in part:
I have tasted complicated, fondue-like versions of this Tex-Mex classic. Made with first-rate aged cheeses and so on, they were edible but lacked the tacky charm of the original. If cooking with canned soups and processed cheeses fails to engage even your anthropologic curiosity, move on.
Chile con Queso is a great hot party dip, of course. I made it today for A.'s postponed birthday party, which was snowed out last weekend and had to be rescheduled for this afternoon. Fortunately (for me, if not for A.), the rescheduling meant that the number of people who were able to attend was significantly smaller, so there are only about eight or ten teenagers around the house right now while I hide in the study with a bowl of CcQ and some corn chips. I made other food, of course, and there is a cake (it's a repeat of the cake I made for her birthday dinner; it was a great success) for later, and there is a huge container of punch (the punchbowl having gone the way of the springform pans and heaven knows what all else that's disappeared in the last year). No one will be hungry.
Mr. McLaughlin's book says that this recipe makes "about 2 1/2 cups, serving 6 to 8." I think maybe he was misquoted. It makes at least twice that
Chile con Queso
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, well drained
2 t. dried oregano
1/2 cup beer
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, seeds removed, minced
2 cans condensed cheddar cheese soup
1 pound Velveeta, cut into one-inch cubes*
1 t. toasted cumin seeds
In a 4-quart (or thereabouts) saucepan, put the drained tomatoes and the oregano. Put over medium heat and stir until the mixture bubbles.
In a second, smaller saucepan, combine the beer, garlic, and jalapenos. Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes.
Add the soup and Velveeta to the tomatoes and stir over medium-low heat until melted. Add the beer mixture and stir to incorporate well. Stir in the scallions and cook for another two minutes or so. Pour into a bowl and sprinkle the toasted cumin seeds on top. Serve with corn chips.
*Not that it matters, but I actually used the store-brand Velveeta knock off. If you're not going to use real cheese, you might as well go to the other end of the spectrum.
**The original recipe calls for a cup of thinly sliced scallions. I didn't feel like measuring, so I took one bunch of scallions, trimmed off the roots, and then thinly sliced the whites and about half of the greens. It was probably closer to a cup-and-a-half, but vegetables are good for you, right?
You can serve Chile con Queso with crudites, and you can use it as a cheese sauce, but you'll probably only do that with the leftovers. It does reheat very well in the microwave, so you can easily make it ahead.
Now if you'll excuse me, the kids are all in the den watching DVDs, so I'm going to grab some food and punch and sneak upstairs with my Almodovar movies.