As I am scrambling around at the last minute each Halloween looking for a costume and trying to plan on what to make for this year’s Halloween parties, I tell myself that next Halloween I am going to plan ahead and pick out a costume and plan a great Halloween-themed food in SEPTEMBER! …or at least, early October. Yet, like clockwork, I always seem to find myself at the last minute each year still trying to figure out both…until this year!
While I still have no costume (some things never change), I have created a Halloween-themed appetizer that I think is pretty fun, very tasty…and super simple to make.
This recipe idea sort of found me. Several months ago, I had planned on shooting a video about making Queso. At that time, I read an article about folks seeking out the best-of-the-best Queso in town and what makes a good Queso dip.
I thought it would be perfect for Tiny Kitchen to make a really good Queso based on some of the elements that make a great Queso Dip. As things go in this crazy experiment called Tiny Kitchen Big Taste, sometimes things shift and move and for whatever reason, my idea to make Queso on TKBT kept getting pushed. Little did I know it would be for good reason.
So, recently, in looking through the “menu signs” that I already had printed for the microwave in the background of the Tiny Kitchen set, I flipped through and saw the Queso sign! Instantly, I knew I could turn this into a great Halloween appetizer. I could envision ghoulish bloodshot eyeballs floating in a cauldron filled with yummy Queso. (I had just had an awesome little Babybel while I was in Atlanta on a recent trip so it was fresh in my mind…and I thought it would be perfect for making the eyeballs.)But how could I make it look like an eyeball. Initially I thought black olives…but that didn’t work great. I tried drawing them on. That didn’t work. And then Mom suggested I try a Spanish Olive with the Pimentos in them. Perfect!
As for the edible ink, that came about by me thinking, “I wish they made edible ink. Hmm…I wonder if they do?” Google, Google, Google…and voila, my edible markers were on their way!
Now, when I think Queso, I think a great white cheese dip. And, usually it is. But there is nothing written that says you can’t use Orange Cheddar Cheese…and well, for Halloween, that is a must! The only difference between white and orange cheddar is that cheese manufacturer’s add coloring to the cheese. Usually, these days, a more natural method of coloring like adding Annatto is used. Annatto is an orange-red food coloring derived from the seeds of the achiote tree.
The key to this cheese dip recipe is, you guessed it, really good cheese! Oftentimes I use pre-shredded cheese in some of my recipes and I have noticed that it doesn’t always melt as perfectly as I want it to. So for this recipe, the shortcut was not allowed because it really would make a noticeable difference in the final dish. Hey, I am all for taking shortcuts as long as it doesn’t adversely affect quality.
So, I dusted off the cheese grater, warmed up my biceps and triceps and began shredding. Very quickly I remembered what I loved about freshly grated cheese…it is sooooo much tastier!!!
As for whether you get extra sharp, sharp or mild, that’s up to you. I always tend to get the extra sharp because I love the bolder flavor that comes with aging the cheese longer. Mild cheddar might get two months of aging while Extra Sharp Cheddar is aged for upwards of a year.
Aside from the cheese, this recipe is really straight forward. You do want to make sure that your cheese doesn’t clump when melting it, so keep in mind these little tips:
- Bring the shredded cheese up to room temperature before melting
- Use a lower temperature and melt slowly
- Add flour. It will help coat the proteins and fats in the melted cheese, which keep the fats from separating and giving you lumpy cheese.
- Do not over stir
Keep these simple tips in mind and you’ll be set!
Now, if I just had a costume, I’d be set. Any ideas?
Halloween Queso Dip
SO WHAT YOU'RE GONNA NEED IS:
- If making the Halloween version, make the Ghoulish Eyes first and set aside. See below for instruction.
- Freshly grate orange Cheddar Cheese. (Note: do not use pre-shredded for this recipe; it doesn’t work as well)
- Roughly chop Cilantro. Mince 1/2 Onion. Removed seeds and finely Mince Serrano Chili Pepper. Dice Tomato. (Note: when using white Cheddar Cheese, scoop out seed so it doesn’t change the color of the Queso.) Set aside.
- In a pot over medium heat, add Butter. Melt Butter.
- To the pot, add Peppers, Onions and a pinch of Salt. Cook until they start to soften.
- Add Tomatoes and Garlic. Cook until the Tomatoes start breaking down, about 30 seconds to a minute.
- Add Flour and stir to coat. Cook for 30 seconds.
- Add Milk and stir until it starts to thicken.
- Slowly add Cheddar Cheese in stages, stirring until it melts before adding more. (Note: if it gets too thick, add a touch of Milk (start with 1 Tablespoon)
- 10. Add Cilantro and mix.
- 11. Plate in a Halloween Cauldron or other festive Halloween dish.
Halloween Ghoulish Eyeballs
- Slice Babybel Cheddar Cheese in half, creating two circles of cheese.
- Pop in the Freezer for about 5-10 minutes until they’re chilled. This will help the edible ink to write better on the cheese.
- With a Red Edible Ink pen, create blood vessels in the eyes.
- Cut off the very top of two Green Olives stuffed with Pimentos and place the “pupils” right in the center of the eyeballs.
- Float on top of the Queso Cheese Dip.