Inter Foods : Ep1


INTERNATIONAL FOODS : CHILE CON QUESO

by Thomas M. Tillman
Homemade Chile con Queso is worlds better than the stuff in the jar. It's still utterly naughty with the inclusion of Velveeta, but with a generous dose of onion, garlic, and chiles, it's a definite winner.
Chile con queso with tortilla chips on a colorful plate
Football season is my favorite time of the year. One of my favorite things about football season is thinking of fun ideas for snacks to make while enjoying the game. With that said, it doesn't need to be football season to enjoy football snacks! I like hosting game nights, and the same types of menus are popular for those as well. Snacky foods are so versatile regardless of the occasion.
A delicious spread of taco dip, taco ring, chile con queso, and tortilla chips
When planning a football-watching (or anything-watching) get-together with friends, Tex Mex favorites are always a good idea. Here we've got some layer dip, a taco ring, and of course molten hot queso, made from scratch. I know you can simply buy a jar of queso and stick it in the microwave. You could melt together a block of Velveeta with a jar of salsa too. But what's the fun in that? It's actually quite easy to make queso from scratch, and it's so tasty! I use my beloved homemade pickled jalapenos to really make it special. . Not only is it easier to make homemade pickled jalapenos than you'd think, the results far surpass anything store-bought. With a few simple ingredients and a couple of mason jars, you can easily make this recipe any time. Keep a jar of these in your fridge to put in quesadillas, top nachos, fill tacos, and so much more!
A close up view of 2 jars of pickled jalapeno peppers.
Canning preserves and pickles is becoming all the rage with DIY activities to make more homemade fresh foods. There are so many items that benefit from pickling, but jalapeños are my favorite! These pickled jalapeños are so incredibly easy to prepare, I can't imagine ever buying them in the store again. The flavor is also above and beyond anything I have tasted on bar nachos. The spice level really depends on the jalapeño peppers themselves. I have gotten super spicy batches, and some slightly milder ones. Over the years I have made countless jars of these spicy, versatile homemade pickled jalapenos. I vow to never purchase them since they are so straight-forward to make myself.
An overhead view of 2 jars of homemade pickled jalapenos.

HOW TO PICKLE JALAPEÑOS

This recipe is so simple! If you blink, you might miss it. First, wash and thinly slice 1 pound of jalapeño peppers, discarding the stems. You may want to wear gloves, especially if you're not used to dealing with chile peppers. Touching your face or eyes after touching hot chiles is VERY painful, and needs to be avoided. This is where gloves can help.
Sliced jalapeno peppers piled high on a black cafeteria tray.
Now, make the pickling liquid. Add water, distilled white vinegar, sugar, kosher salt, and a couple of peeled garlic cloves to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Once the mixture begins to boil, remove it from the heat. Add your sliced jalapeños, pressing occasionally to submerge them in the liquid. Let them steep for 10 to 15 minutes in the hot brine, mixing once or twice to ensure all the jalepeño slices spend time submerged. They will begin to change color from bright green to a muted olive green. It's ok if some slices are still a little regular green. They will continue to pickle in the jar.
A closeup of 2 jars of pickled jalapenos side by side.
If you already have pint-size Mason jars, you're halfway there. You can store them in other containers in your fridge, but glass jars are always best, and this is what I recommend. I also prefer plastic lids in place of metal, since I don't process my pickles. I simply store them in the fridge, and the plastic avoids rusting. Use a slotted spoon to transfer your homemade pickled jalapenos into each of 2 pint-sized jars, or 1 larger quart-sized jar. Pack them into the jars if you must. Then strain the remaining pickling liquid from the saucepan through a small fine-mesh strainer into each of the jars to cover all the sliced chiles with brine. Using a strainer will help you avoid some of the excess seeds getting into your jars. Allow the jars to cool to room temperature, then cover with lids and refrigerate. I always recommend chilling the jars overnight before enjoying any of the pickles. They will still be very spicy that first day, but the pickling will continue as they chill into the next day. These homemade quick pickled jalapenos will last for months in the refrigerator.
Two jars of homemade pickled jalapenos, one without a lid.
I don't go through the official process of canning them, and instead opt to refrigerate my jars. If you want to process them to make them shelf-stable (like you would with other pickles or jams), you certainly can do that by boiling the sealed sterilized jars for 10 to 15 minutes and following the usual steps (the Ball site is a great resource as is the USDA site). If you can them, you may want to add a pinch of pickle crisp granules to keep the pickles from softening too much.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound jalapeños, stems removed and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

Instructions

  • In a medium saucepan combine the garlic, water, vinegar, sugar and salt.
  • Heat to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Once at a boil, add the sliced jalapeños pressing them so they are submerged. Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, occasionally stirring and pressing the jalapeños into the brine.
  • Transfer the jalapeños to 2 pint-size jars or 1 quart-size jar. Ladle the brine over top until the jar is full (doing this over a small strainer will remove the bulk of the excess seeds). Let cool at room temperature before securing a lid and popping them into the fridge.
  • (Alternatively to can them: when the mixture is still hot, process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 to 15 minutes; make sure the jars were sterilized first and use best canning practices to ensure food safety; the USDA also has good resources on canning).
Tortilla chip dipped in homemade queso, showing off a piece of pickled jalapeno
What really takes it over the edge for me is finding a bag of Tostitos emblazoned with the logo for the SIX TIME SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS!! Yep, I'm willing to shell out extra for the one marketed directly to me, a die hard Pats fan. Oh Tostitos, you really get me!
Tostitos tortilla chips, a bowl of homemade queso, and a dish of taco dip
Regardless of who you are rooting for on Sunday (or Monday or Thursday), this easy chile con queso totally satisfies that gooey cheese, spicy, snacky craving at game time. If you're not into sports, no biggie. That's not a prerequisite to enjoy this amazing queso. One must simply love spicy, tasty cheese dip! We are equal opportunity cheese-lovers here!
taco dip, taco ring, chile con queso, and tortilla chips on a colorful plate

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ½ yellow onion chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 pound Velveeta cheese cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 (7-ounce) can Ortega brand diced green chiles drained
  • ¾ cup diced canned tomatoes with juice
  • ¼ cup drained canned or jarred sliced pickled jalapeno chiles
  • Tortilla chips for dipping

Instructions

  • Combine the oil, onion, and garlic in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the cheese and stir frequently until melted. Add the green chiles, tomatoes, and pickled jalapenos and stir until heated through.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and serve warm with tortilla chips for dipping.

Nutrition

Calories: 148kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 30mg | Sodium: 906mg | Potassium: 11mg | Sugar: 5g

*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*