Edible Memphis is an amazing publication available at The Booksellers at Laurelwood and other excellent stores and restaurants around town. I urge you to seek it out this week. This James Beard award-winning magazine is dedicated to telling the stories behind our food in an always-interesting way. It's truly unlike any other magazine out there.
The following is an excerpt from my article "Cheese Dip Road Trip," which can be found in full in the winter edition of the magazine:
According to In Queso Fever: A Movie About Cheese Dip, cheese dip as we know it was invented in central, Arkansas in the 1930’s by an Irishman known as “Blackie” Donnelly, a guy who owned a restaurant called Mexico Chiquito. Wait...cheese dip was invented in Arkansas! So that makes cheese dip a Southern classic suitable to be served alongside my grandaddy’s cornbread and my grandma’s greens. That blew my mind when I first heard it...
Pick up a copy of Edible Memphis to see the rest of the story and to read an in-depth interview with Nick Rogers, the director of In Queso Fever: A Movie About Cheese Dip.
Southern-Style Cheese Dip
Makes about a 1 1/2 pints
3 small poblano peppers (or one large)
1 medium jalapeño pepper
3 small-to-medium tomatoes
3/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon salt
Scant 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 pounds Oaxaca cheese (substitute mozzarella if needed; shredded)
1/2 pound sharp cheddar (shredded)
1 bag of corn chips
Roast peppers and tomatoes until blackened over a high flame on your outdoor grill; this should take 5-8 minutes. Place peppers and tomatoes in a covered container and allow to cool completely. Remove stems and seeds from the peppers. Remove the core from the tomato using a pairing knife. Slip the vegetables out of their charred skins. Place roasted vegetables, cumin, and garlic powder into the work bowl of your food processor. Pulse until mixture is well incorporated. This process should yield about a cup of homemade Ro*Tel.
In a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and then whisk in the flour. Allow the flour and butter mixture to cook for about two minutes until nutty and fragrant before whisking in the buttermilk. After about 2 minutes the mixture will thicken. Add the salt and cayenne. Add the cheese in batches while stirring the mixture so that the cheese melts. Once all the cheese is incorporated, add a cup of the homemade Ro*Tel mixture and heat the mixture through.
Place everything back into the food processor and process for 3-4 minutes or until smooth. Pour warm cheese dip into a serving bowl and garnish with chopped cilantro and diced roasted jalapeño. Serve warm alongside crunchy corn tortilla chips.
Refrigerate unused portion (as if there will be any left over!). Reheat in the microwave for a minute and a half or in a saucepan over a low flame.