Monday, August 6, 2007

Macho Dip

A recipe and an informal review
When Sandra and I first moved to New Hampsha in 1982, we were delighted to find a Mexican restaurant in the town. The restaurant was called "Little Mexico" and had a cute little white-plaster building on Rt. 28.

The building is still there, but alas, the restaurant has gone. They opened an additional location in East Hampstead, NH which isn't that far away, but that place doesn't have the immediacy that the Salem location had for us ("Hey! I don't feel like cooking tonight. How about getting a couple of bowls of chili from Little Mexico?"). Be that as it may, we've continued patronizing the place in East Hampstead. The place has changed in a few ways over the years, and the service has been hit or miss from time to time, but the one constant thing that we can usually count on is the food.

The chili con carne there is outstanding. It's probably my favorite chili "with beans" that I've had anywhere, and that's saying quite a lot. It's thin, soupy style is a personal favorite of mine, and it consists of ground meat, kidney beans, and a perfect selection of spices.

There is another dish at Little Mexico that Sandra and the kids love, which is called "Macho Dip," which is the subject of today's blog entry. The dip is described as melted cheese dip with enchilada sauce and onions, and from the description, it's not that difficult to try to come up with a way to reproduce it at home.

My wife is going to be the matron-of-honor for one of her best friends in a few months, and this past weekend, there was a "Jack and Jill" party for the happy couple. The party was held at a Knights of Columbus hall nearby, and when my wife was picking up food for the party, I asked her if a "Macho Dip" appetizer would be appreciated. She thought it would be a good idea, so I put myself into "chef" mode, and tried to figure out what I would need to make something for a party.

Let me make a confession. I was told there would be seventy people at the party, and I had no idea what kind of quantities would be needed. I figured a cheese dip would need a Crock Pot to keep it warm, and we have two large ones (6 quarts?).

I went to the supermarket and picked up eight cans of Campbell's "Cheese Soup" (basically, cheddar cheese in a soup form). It's a common recipe starter, and I figured that eight cans would easily feed seventy people. At home, I had everything else I'd need for the dip.

At 10am in the morning of the day of the party, I got out the Crock Pot, and put the contents of the eight soup cans into it, filling the pot about halfway. To that, I added a small can of enchilada sauce (I'm not sure about the brand... sorry!). Sandra suggested I add a can of "Tomatoes and Green Chilis" (available in the Mexican section of the International aisle in the supermarket), and I had Chardonnay chop up a medium-sized Vidalia onion (the best onions for ANYTHING!). I sauteéd the chopped onion in about two tablespoons of butter with some olive oil until it was transparent and added it to the Crock Pot.

At this point, it was important to stir the pot. The cheese is thick, the enchilada sauce and vegetables are thin, and stirring combined everything. The cheese went from a bright yellow to a light brown color mostly due to the enchilada sauce. After it was all mixed together, it was necessary to correct the seasoning. I added about two tablespoons of cumin, and another tablespoon of Chili Seasoning, and then I added about a tablespoon each of onion powder and garlic powder. I had my youngest daughter, Chardonnay, taste the mixture, and it was a bit "raw" to her (the powdered seasonings needed time to "marry" into the dip). I didn't modify anything, but had her taste it again after ten minutes (it was better), and another ten minutes (it was great).

After a couple of hours with the Crock Pot at its highest setting, the dip was ready. I suggest lowering the temperature (or shutting it off) after that period, and checking every half hour or so after you set it out to ensure that the dip is at the right consistency. Serve with tortilla chips, preferably unseasoned like Tostitos™ rather than Doritos™.

I ended up with about four to five quarts of dip, which was way more than enough for the party. There was some leftover afterward, but Chardonnay quickly claimed it for herself (she just loves the dip).

The dip has some useful applications:

  • Little Mexico uses it as a sauce for their enchiladas and the burritos (their Verde Burrito is another one of my favorites at the restaurant!)
  • Ladle over tortilla chips and add vegetables for nachos.
  • Serve as an accompaniment with taquitos.
  • Heat and serve over enchiladas as a cheesy sauce.
  • Substitute for cheese with fajitas

Bon Appetit!

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