Monday, July 14, 2014

Camp Cooking #11: Not your Mamma's Cast-Iron Queso

I love cheese.  Sliced, shredded, melted - you name it, I'm a fan of it. With chips, with crackers, with wine or beer or all by its little ole' lonesome.  Yep, I'm a huge fan of all things cheesy (including jokes, like this one: Q: What do you call a cheese that doesn't belong to you? A: Nacho Cheese!)

All joking aside, this recipe is not you're mamma's basic cheese dip - this is a cast-iron, melty, hotter-than-Hades, good-stuff, kick you in the teeth kind of queso. It's not for the faint of heart!

First up, Gather your Ingredients!

1 lb Jimmy Dean HOT sausage
Cayenne, Chili Powder, Red Pepper Flakes, 
Black Pepper, Cumin (all to taste)
1 lb Velveeta
1 can HOT Rotel
1 can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
3 Jalapenos, diced
Chips For Dipping
Cast-iron Dutch-oven, wooden spoon, knife, can opener, strainer

As we get started, a quick note on serving sizes - RDB and I halved everything but the Velveeta - and still ended up with waaay more than two people could finish - that being said, the complete ingredient list makes plenty enough for a crowd, but if you're making it for a couple, you might want to cut it down to a quarter can of beans, quarter pound of meat and only half the block of cheese. 

Begin by browning your sausage in your cast iron skillet over medium heat.  I highly recommend cast iron for this recipe - nothing sticks, everything melts well, it helps to retain heat (you'll serve it straight from the pot) and clean up couldn't be easier. 

When your sausage is still slightly pink, add in your spices (and if needed, drain the fat from your meat).  I wasn't very precise on how much of what (I rarely ever am, much to RDB's chagrin) so for the most part, you'll have to feel it out for yourself.  So far as heat goes, the ingredients listed above are from from hottest to mildest and remember - you're starting with a spicy meat and are also adding in HOT Rotel.  Adjust to your camper's Scoville preferences.  

Cube up and add in your Velveeta - and from this point on, dedicate someone to continuously stir the pot.  Cast iron cleans beautifully, yes, but cheese also burns quickly!  While the cheese is getting gooey, open your cans, drain your beans, and chop your jalapenos.  Note: don't drain the Rotel - you'll want the liquid to help thin out the cheese enough to make it scoopable.  Yes, 'scoopable.'  (Spellcheck, leave me alone!)

Add your (un-drained) can of Rotel at any point once you've got everything else ready to go. And stir, stir, stir.

You'll want to save the beans for last - right before the fresh jalapenos - because you don't want to mush them to pieces as you continue to stir and blend your queso.  One you have a completed melted and smooth consistency, add the beans, give a stir, then as you're taking this whole delightful pot to the table to serve, fold in your fresh jalapenos.

RDB and I both recommend serving this with Fritos - the extra bit of salt just sets this off!  Oh, and thinking about setting things off - you may want to have a fire extinguisher (aka, beer) nearby, because a few bites of this cheesy deliciousness will set your mouth on fire!

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