Saturday, November 23, 2013

Queso Freak

I do not know when it first came about, but a few years ago my reward for a week of eating well was a Friday night trip to one of several Tex-Mex restaurants in Austin that served what I considered to be good queso. Queso, chips, and salsa became my Friday night fix.

I could have a worse fix than queso.

At various points across the years I have had an entourage who joined me on a regular basis. We would get into such a routine that the staff knew what to bring me when I walked into the establishment. For the last year, I have mostly had my queso fix alone because my regular friends moved away or our schedules no longer align.

Does eating queso alone make me an addict?

I am somewhat picky about the queso. Heated Velveeta does not do it for me. It actually has to be some kind of cheese sauce. I also prefer the queso compuesto which means it comes with pico and meat and sometimes guacamole. I mix everything except any included guacamole into the cheese. I do not care for the avocado taste in the cheese, but I leave the guacamole floating in the hot cheese because warm guacamole actually tastes really good.

Recently I have been mastering the process of making my own queso from scratch. Getting a smooth sauce is not as difficult as I long imagined. I just had never done it right. Simply melting cheese does not a queso make.

I firmly believe that, much like bacon, cheese sauce makes almost anything better. Mastering the base for a cheese sauce allows for so many variations. One of my favorite variations involves making a smoky cheese sauce. When mixed with the right meats and pasta, it gives a sense of the grill. Properly incorporating fresh peppers into the base makes a very spicy sauce without the lumpy nature that sometimes happens when going for spicy. Using a variety of cheeses creates sauces as varied as the variety of cheeses in the fromagerie.

As much as I look forward to the queso itself on Friday nights, the real enjoyment of it comes from the company with friends and lively atmosphere in the restaurants. By going to the same ones so regularly, I recognize, and even know some of the regulars now. Despite my naturally introverted nature, I am comfortable enough in these places to relax and enjoy the company of others. Queso is just the bait to get me there.
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