Queso. It’s that familiar and much-loved combination of cheese, chili peppers and Rotel, melted and mixed together to make the dip we all love to pass around the table. And no one knows the appetizer better than the seventh generation Texan who has literally written the book on the subject.
Lisa Fain is known in many quarters as “the Homesick Texan,” thanks to a series of books she’s written. Now residing in New York, Fain’s new book is called “Queso! Regional Recipes for the World’s Favorite Chile-Cheese Dip.”
“When I was writing this book, I probably spent about four months eating probably at least eight bowls of queso each day.” Fain says. During this routine, she ended up losing ten pounds. “There might just be something in the whole queso diet.”
Queso, originally known as chile con queso, is a combination of chili peppers and cheese. Fain says the Mexican recipe began as a side dish of chilis covered in cheese. During the late 1800s, while early chile con queso recipes were circulating, a side dish from Europe called Welsh rarebit also received attention. Welsh rarebit was commonly made with American cheese.
“People started getting creative with Welsh rarebit and they would do Italian rarebit or all these variations,” she says. Mexican rarebit, however, married the two authentic recipes into one popular Tex-Mex dish that tasted like queso.
Fain says she grew up eating Velveeta and Rotel-based queso, but the authenticity question is regularly asked when people hear the word Velveeta. The first recipe that used this cheese brand was published in 1938 and it was the standard base of Tex-Mex queso from then on.
Fain’s queso-obsession began when she moved to New York and found that there was no sign of queso or Rotel anywhere. Fain says she had to figure out how to make queso beyond the basic recipe. Her book proves she found more than a few tasty variations.
Written by Dani Matias.