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Recently I was trying to replicate the Mexican Restaurant-style white cheese dip that can be found in mexican restaurants around the south east United States. (Specifically I was thinking of the cheese dip found at the El Toro chain around Atlanta, Georgia)

I used the following recipe:

* 1/4 cup butter
* 1/4 cup white flour
* 2 cups whole milk
* 1 tsp. ground cumin
* 8 oz. canned chopped green chiles, like Chile Ortegas, drained
* 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 tsp. olive oil
* 2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded, deveined, and finely chopped OR 1 to 2 canned chipotle chiles chopped
* 8 oz. monterey jack or asadero cheese, grated 
* salt to taste
* fresh ground pepper to taste

I Used a mix of Monterey Jack/Asadero/Queso Quesadilla cheese and omitted the jalapenos since my girlfriend complains about anything spicier than a bell pepper

First making a roux, then adding the spices and chilis, and finally stirring in the cheese.

However, the result was extremely bland -- I could taste the green chilis and not much else, including cheese.

What can I do to get something with more flavor? I'd love to be able to make this at home.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

If you want more flavour, add more flavour. That sounds like I'm being a smartass, but it's true. Starches absorb/obscure flavour, which is a large part of why both the nouvelle cuisine and the molecular (or whatever you want to call it; I hate that term) movements prize reductions and non-standard thickeners, respectively.

First of all, I'd echo Michael and suggest you not use a roux. That will instantly create more flavour (this is assuming you're keeping the roux blonde, and not cooking it darker for more intense flavour).

Second, you will want to introduce a liquid phase to the dip to keep it dippable as it cools while you eat it. I would suggest cream, or sour cream. Buttermilk would also be lovely for a nice tang. You won't need much, I would just substitute for the milk you are already using, and only use one cup to begin. Add more as needed to adjust consistency. Bring your liquid product to a slow simmer, and slowly whisk in your cheese until incorporated.

For the cumin, garlic, chiles, I would start by toasting the cumin in a hot dry pan, then add your olive oil, sautee the onions first (or even go so far as to caramelize, which would be lovely), then add and lightly cook the chiles and garlic. This will bring out more flavours.

I don't know what you mean by 'Queso' cheese; Queso is just Spanish for 'cheese.' Queso fresca? Queso blanco? But I would look for cheeses with more flavour. The ones you are using are fairly bland (comparatively) and will not provide an intensely cheesy experience.

Season at the end.

I would first, however, simply try making the same thing without a roux, and using half the milk. The flavour difference will be significant.

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Thanks for the suggestions. I did sautee the onions+garlic. The cheese mix was queso quesadilla which is a soft white cow cheese. I must have been tired last night when I just wrote queso :) –  John Ledbetter Sep 28 '10 at 15:38
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It sounds to me like what you are trying to make is queso fundido... but it usually is just melted cheese and flavorings (vegetables, sometimes booze, chorizo); there isn't a roux thickened milk base. Searching for queso fundido will turn up lots of recipes you can use as a starting point.

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Also, here is someone who is making a milk & cheese dip that might be what you are looking for: champaign-taste.blogspot.com/2008/12/… –  Michael at Herbivoracious Sep 28 '10 at 15:22
    
Thanks Michael. –  John Ledbetter Sep 28 '10 at 15:39
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Kenji Alt has a recipe for cheese sauce that is based just on cheese, corn starch, and evaporated milk. He seems to have gone to a lot of effort to try many different methods to make such a sauce, and while I haven’t tried his final recipe (yet), it certainly looks delicious, with exactly the right texture that I would want from a cheese sauce for dipping.

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