I've eaten "queso" for as long as I remember. Growing up, we often ate at a Mexican restaurant near our church and I would gorge myself on the chips and queso. It also made an appearance at many family gatherings, and still does. In my family, it's Velveeta and Rotel. In my husband's family, they spice up the same base with browned sausage. I love it all. But I'm not a huge fan of Velveeta, truth be told. Surely there has to be a way to make more authentic queso without defaulting to the scary rectangular pasteurized processed cheese product, no?
Most recipe searches left me coming up empty. But over Thanksgiving, while I was trying out a cheese sauce to replace the Cheese-Whiz called for in mom's broccoli-rice casserole, it hit me: this could be my queso base. I added some salsa to the leftover cheese sauce and instantly had my husband put away the bag of chips, lest I eat every last one, smothered in my new-found queso. Let me know how you think it compares.
adapted from Rachael Ray
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
4 ounces cubed cream cheese
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
Your favorite salsa (or Rotel)
In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stir 3 tablespoons flour into 3 tablespoons melted butter and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in 1 cup heavy cream until smooth, then whisk in 2 cups milk. Simmer gently until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in 2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, 4 ounces cubed cream cheese until melted and smooth. Season with salt and a pinch ground cayenne pepper. Add in your favorite salsa, about 1 1/2 cups, or to taste.