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Chasin' down Austin Tex-Mex Queso in the UK. (recipe)

Super Bowl Sunday - with time differences, and my (sad but true) lack of following the sport, I still feel for any UK expats who happen to love and miss things like Taco Bell/Cabana and queso ... I have been on a quest to get this right over here (where there is no such thing as Velveeta cheese sold, nor any 'decent' American cheese ... and Monterey Jack / Colby are just hard to find - my latest attempt may be good for your next football outing if you're looking for that melted velvet concoction I miss so much from Austin Texas!

I mainly am aiming to recreate the Bob Armstrong dip - taco meat, guacamole, and this heavenly 'liquid cheese' that can so easily be made with Rotel and Velveeta in the States ... that I've always come up a bit short with here. I've gone and tried some recipes calling for a bechamel sauce to be made, milk to be added, and cheddar to slowly be melted in. The consistency always seems a bit 'powdery', or 'bitty' - as cheese does not naturally melt into a true smooth liquid form. The closest thing I can describe it as is like the 'cheese sauce' you'd get with nachos at a movie theatre here in the UK - which (myself included) prompts a 'hmmm' and 'riiiiight' response.

But queso, to me, is an awesome thing - a bowl that can be served up quite a few ways, that, as well as Texas chili - has a warm place in my heart. Many memories of late nights, Magnolia Cafe, Kerby Lane Cafe, Starseeds Cafe, and catching up with friends ... I associate with queso.

So without further ado - here's my slightly altered version of Matt's Famous El Rancho Recipe. I've basically followed it to the T - except for the pound of American cheese that is called for here. On that, I've decided to try a recipe for making Velveeta from scratch, combined with a 'cheese product' made with only 11% cheese (and loads of milk proteins, etc.) - that made me hope for a more melted consistency. I believe this time it's worked.

The taco seasoning portions I've halved - still there's enough leftover on that and on taco meat to where I will have tacos tomorrow, and heated up some of the seasoning along with pickled jalapenos from a jar (Old El Paso), and (again, Old El Paso (thankfully that's here)) refried beans - to eat queso the way I once did - warm tortillas with refried beans and jalapenos wrapped like a taquito - that being the edible utensil that I devour this Bob Armstrong dip with - with vigor. To anyone who can't get Velveeta or American cheese, or even Monterey Jack / Longhorn cheddar blends ... have a go at this. And to my UK friends, I guarantee it's better than the 'cheese sauce' that comes with those crap nachos at the cinema!

Bob Armstrong Queso – Matt’s Famous El Rancho Recipe

Traditional Guacamole

1 avocado 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice Salt to taste

Cut the avocado in half, discard pit and scoop out the avocado flesh into a bowl.

Discard the skin. Mash the juice into the avocado and continue mashing until the guacamole reaches desired texture.

Salt to taste.

20-Minute Taco Meat

1/4 cup finely chopped bell pepper 1/4 cup chopped celery 1/2 cup chopped white onion 1 tablespoon plus two teaspoons of Tex-Mex spice* 1 pound lean ground beef

Stir the bell pepper, celery, onion & Tex-Mex spice, then spread uncooked meat on top. Turn to medium heat - when meat starts to simmer, stir and break up meat - 20 minutes or so.

Chile con Queso

1 cup green chilies 1/2 cup diced fresh tomato 1/2 cup diced onion 1/2 cup diced celery 2 teaspoons Tex-Mex Spice* 1 cup chicken broth 1 pound American cheese mix**

Combine all ingredients except cheese, bring to a simmer and gently cook for about 5 minutes.

Turn heat down and add the cheese, and simmer until cheese is melted. Add water if it’s too thick or more cheese if it’s too thin.

Tex-Mex Spice Mixture* 1.5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoons ground cumin 1.5 tablespoons granulated garlic 1 tablespoon salt 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper

American cheese mix** This is to vary, but trying Sainsbury’s basics cheese slices and –

“Velveeta cheese”

4g unflavored gelatin (1 teaspoon) 55 ml dry milk powder (~3½ tablespoons) 130 ml boiling water 250g mild cheddar cheese, shredded (trying Sainsbury’s basics)

Place the unflavored gelatin and dry milk powder in a blender or food processor. Pour the boiling water over top and immediately pulse to combine. Add the cheddar cheese and puree the mixture until smooth.

I'll keep searching and refining, but there ya go for now. The taco meat I put under the queso in the bowls, so you can't see it, as it was historically done. I also omitted the sour cream out of my own preference. Hope the Super Bowl goes well for all who are watching! ^_^

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