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You Should Be Eating Queso on Cinco de Mayo

Many wonderful things hail from Texas, but one of the best things is queso, our unofficial state dish. And since it’s Cinco de Mayo, it's what you should be shoveling into your mouth with a Michelada in one hand, tortilla chip in the other.
May 5, 2014, 5:08pm

I'm a native Texan, but I currently live in NYC. Last year, I created a pop-up Tex-Mex restaurant known as "Casa Blanco" here in order to offer Tex-Mex in Yankee territory, and to comfort my homesick heart. When I think about Texas, the great state has contributed a lot to this world. Its legendary football teams attract crowds of cheering fans every weekend. Patrick Swayze, one of the greatest stars to come from the Lone Star State, helped give the world Dirty Dancing. Remember the Alamo? I sure do. Many wonderful things hail from the part of the country just South of the Red River, but one of the best things that Texan's have going for ourselves is our unofficial state dish: queso. The Spanish word for cheese, queso is so much MORE than just a term. And since it's Cinco de Mayo, queso is the honorary dish that you should be eating today with a Michelada in one hand, tortilla chip in the other.

A group of Texans will gravitate to it like the sun, orbiting the bowl with their thin, white corn tortilla chips, tossing back margaritas for hours.

This beloved Tejano dip champions and defines low-brow Tex-Mex cuisine. A group of Texans will gravitate to it like the sun, orbiting the bowl with their thin, white corn tortilla chips, tossing back margaritas for hours. I grew up eating it at almost every meal. If the saying, "you are what you eat" is true, then I'm mostly comprised of 80 percent queso. But when I moved 3,000 miles away from Texas, I discovered that queso is not as ubiquitous as I thought. My frantic searches proved fruitless. I could NOT find it in NYC. No one had even heard of it. Because of this horrifying revelation, I knew what my contribution to the world would be: I will bring joy and happiness to the poor souls who have never experienced queso. I will teach people how to make it the right way, with the right cheese. I will change the way that people think about Tex-Mex cuisine in general. I will be the Patrick Swayze of the food world, and queso will be my Dirty Dancing!

There are two components to great queso: the cheese and the mix-ins. You HAVE to use the right cheese, and that cheese is called EZ Melt. It's virtually impossible to find up here in Yankee territory, but it's the Yeti of the processed cheese world. Everyone has heard of it, but few have been able to capture it. It took me a while to locate it, but I finally found it through my connections in the "restaurant biz." If you can't find it, Velveeta will work just as well, but it's really not the same overall experience. For the mix-ins, true aficionados will use pico de gallo, cilantro, avocado and, every once in a while, freshly cooked taco meat. You can put the finished product on chips, tacos, and even on a sandwich. Just be sure to eat it proudly, because, like Baby from Dirty Dancing, nobody puts queso in a corner.

In case you have no idea how to make queso, watch Courtney make it in our how-to series.