I received free samples of Cabot Cheese mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Cabot Cheese and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.
This year, I was asked to join my first Fantasy Football League. If I am anything, I am a “joiner,” and I did not hesitate.
I did not, and still do not really, understand what happened at the draft, and round-about the fifth round of our draft, I said “Soooo, how do you play?” And everyone laughed.
But, no one told me how to play.
Regardless, I am doing ok in the league.
The fun part, besides interacting with a group of colleagues (which happens much less than it used to these days!), is that it is fun to follow along all of the NFL games because I have certain players to watch. It feels a little more normal to have sports on the TV.
But, it will be a long while still until I head to a bar to watch a game. Couch it is, for the foreseeable future! So when I learned that Cabot Creamery was holding a contest involving cheese for food bloggers, I decided all the stars were aligning and it was a good time to fire the ol’ laptop back up.
Cabot Creamery sent me FOUR POUNDS of cheese – two pounds of Vermont Sharp Cheddar, and two pounds of Vermont Seriously Sharp Cheddar. I honestly don’t think I have ever had so much cheese in my refrigerator.
But, I got to work.
The contest is for budget-friendly recipes, whether grilling, family-friendly, or breakfast.
So. Many. Options.
I at first had no ideas and then I had like 40, so in typical Becky fashion, I aimed for the sun (moon?), caught some stars instead, and made a sampler platter. LOVE a sampler platter. And because this “bar food” is not actually at a bar, it’s exactly what I want on a platter (we don’t have to get into it, but I am just not a chicken wing fan and you won’t be able to convince me), and because I make it, I know exactly what is going into my dish.
I made a platter that would be fun for the whole family – or, just me, no judgment right? – consisting of bacon-cheeseburger sliders, loaded potato skins, and nacho scoopers, all with QUARANTINE QUESO.
Believe it or not, this entire platter consists of ingredients you can keep on-hand for when you want to whip up a bunch of apps. I love that. Those are the most cost-effective recipes, and it feels rewarding too. And no grocery ordering and crossing your fingers that the shopper gets it all right, and they are delivered without incident.
Fresh it is not–it is also not fried!–but when you just want a platter of comforting, nostalgic, and delicious snacks – four apps in one! – this is a fun one to make.
As I put together the platter, it occurred to me . . . these are actually all of my faves, and I have pretty much blogged most of their components, except of course, the QUESO. You can find the components here thusly:
- Baked Potato Skins with Cheese, Chives, and Bacon
- Healthy Nachos – for these Tortilla Chips, I cut the tortillas smaller using a cookie cutter, cut a slit, and curled them into a mini-muffin tin to MAKE MY OWN SCOOPERS!
- Sliders using No-Rise Hamburger Buns (yes, I made slider buns sized to order in like 45 min) (the sliders are just lean ground beef with salt and pepper, seared for a few minutes on each side in a pan) and Microwaved Bacon
I used Cabot Vermont Sharp Cheddar or Seriously Sharp Cheddar on each of the elements – a little slice on the sliders, some shreds on the potato skins, and of course, the QUESO.
Ok, you have waited long enough.
I had never made Queso! But, I have made macaroni and cheese. And I have made cheese fondue. And, I have to tell you, Queso is not that different. I made a roux base – equal parts butter and flour, and then equal part milk – and whisked away until everything was blended and it took on the consistency of, honestly, mashed potatoes. I turned off the heat, added a block of Cabot Vermont Sharp Cheddar Cheese, which I had shredded in my food processor using the slicing disk, and continued whisking.
I realized at this point that it was no different from a bechamel sauce, orrrr how you make Mac & Cheese. This is not a bad thing of course, but to give the queso a mexican flavor, I used the same spices I had added to the ground beef for the nachos – paprika, chili powder, and cumin. I whisked until it was all combined.
I needed to add quite a bit more milk – in all, maybe 1/2 cup total – to get the right consistency. I love the color that resulted from the beautiful white cheddar and the paprika and chili powder. A pale yellow with flavorful dots of orange and brown.
The queso is then good to go. You can: dip chips or vegetables in it, dip a spoon into it and then into your mouth, or put it in a zip-lock bag and snip the tip off – and pipe it all over your stuff. I started with the nachos, but then the potato skins called to me.
Putting cheese on cheese?
Sure. Bring it on, 2020.
- 8 oz. Cabot Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
- 1 Tablespoon corn starch
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 Tablespoons skim milk
- .5 teaspoon chili powder
- .5 teaspoon cumin
- .5 teaspoon paprika
- .5 cup skim milk
- Shred the cheese and toss the shreds with the Tablespoon of corn starch and set aside for a moment.
- Place a small pot over medium-high (to high) heat. Add the butter and the flour. Using a whisk, keep stirring as the butter melts, and make sure the flour doesn't sit still for too long and start to brown.
- Once the butter has melted and is incorporated evenly into the flour, add the 2 Tablespoons milk, and continue to whisk until it is incorporated.
- Add the chili powder, cumin, and paprika, and stir/whisk until it is incorporated.
- Turn off the heat, and move the pot off of the heat. Add the cheese, and whisk until it melts. Slowly add milk (you may not need the full half-cup) and whisk until the queso reaches the right consistency for you.
If you are using a coated pan or dutch oven, make sure your whisk is coated with silicone to prevent scratching.
Some #CabotFacts for you (I just made that hashtag up, but it seemed appropriate):
- Cabot is a cooperative owned by 800 farm families throughout New England and New York and 100% of profits go back to the farmers.
- All Cabot Cheddars are 100% Naturally Lactose-Free, Naturally Aged, and Naturally Gluten-Free.
- In addition to a full line of cheeses, Cabot makes Greek yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, butter and whey protein.
One completely unexpected benefit of this year of down-time and home-grocery-ing has been learning more about and getting to know different brands, and finding really pure, quality food. As brands pivot and seek to amplify their direct to consumer model, I find myself seeking out the brands that have made an effort, or that have been recommended to me. This cheddar tasted really fresh, and I will be seeking it out in the future. Juuuuust as soon as I finish the three pounds left in my fridge.