When it comes to game-day snacks, there are few people who will turn down chips and cheese dip (I'm pretty sure all of these folks are vegan anyhow). Even my friends who scoff at the concept of queso are known to sneak bites of the gooey stuff when they think no one is looking. It's not too hard to make either snack from scratch, but homemade versions are rarely more exciting than Tostitos.
Enter Cynthia Nims's new cookbook Salty Snacks. She elevates chips and queso just enough to turn heads, while still keeping the dish oozy and comforting. Instead of frying the chips (which you could do, I suppose), she coats them with chipotle chile powder (and salt) before baking until crisp and golden. And the queso? It's got a blend of melted jack and cheddar cheeses as well as softened scallions for a bit of bite and color.
Why I picked this recipe: Melted cheese and chips just screams game-day food, am I right?
What worked: Chipotle chile powder-laced tortilla chips is pretty genius (and so is Nims's hint to use a fine mesh strainer to evenly coat the tortillas).
What didn't: The queso is basically just a hot pot of melted cheese, so it will begin to solidify pretty quickly if it isn't served in a thick, insulated bowl. Even without the proper serving bowl, though, the quickly coagulating queso still tastes awesome.
Suggested tweaks: If the melty cheese situation bugs you, it'd be pretty easy to adapt Nims's recipe to work with Kenji's cheese sauce method.
Reprinted with permission from Salty Snacks by Cynthia Nims. Copyright 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.
- Yield:serves 4 to 6
- Active time: 25 minutes
- Total time:35 to 40 minutes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 small corn tortillas (6 inches in diameter)
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chile powder (such as chipotle or ancho)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or flaky or coarse sea salt
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green portions
- 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 3/4 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Use 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to lightly brush the tops of the corn tortillas, then sprinkle the chile powder and salt evenly over them using small fine-mesh strainer. Starting at either the left or right edge of a tortilla, cut a vertical strip that’s about 1 inch at its widest point, at a slight angle. Moving inward, cut another long strip at a similar angle in the opposite direction. Continue zigzagging across the tortilla cutting long triangular strips that alternate between the point being downward and upward. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. You should get about 8 strips per tortilla. Arrange the strips on a rimmed baking sheet.
Toast in the oven until just crisped, 10 to 12 minutes. Set aside to cool. The crisps can be made a day ahead and stored in an airtight container.
Shortly before serving, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small, heavy skillet or pan, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Add the green onions and cook, stirring often, until just tender but not browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cheeses, a small handful at a time, stirring until each addition is almost fully melted before adding the next. When all the cheese has been added, continue cooking for a minute or two undisturbed so that the mixture gets nice and bubbly. Scatter the cilantro over the queso fundido and serve right away, with the tortilla crisps alongside.