Broccoli Dip, Hold the Cheez

Catonsville, Md.
I make a spicy broccoli dip recipe my family always requests, but it uses Velveeta cheese. I would rather not use something packed with chemicals, but I'm worried to try the recipe with regular cheddar cheese, which seems too thick. Have you ever found a substitute for Velveeta? Do you have any recommendations for what I might try?

Don't be scared, Catonsville; you can make your very own cheese sauce using a combination of Cheddar and Monterey Jack and be done with that yellow box for good. Earlier this year, I tweaked a recipe for queso, the classic melted cheese dip that inevitably makes its way to the Super Bowl party table, and had smooth, delicious results.

The key is to start off with a roux -- equal parts fat and flour -- followed by a hearty helping of heavy cream (I didn't say this was low fat), and getting that nice and hot well before incorporating the cheese. Check out the recipe below for all the details. In your case with the broccoli, I'd add after the cheese is completely integrated.

In case anyone is wondering, a block of Velveeta contains the following:

MILK, WATER, MILKFAT, WHEY, WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, SODIUM PHOSPHATE, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, ALGINATE, SODIUM CITRATE, APOCAROTENAL (COLOR), ANNATTO (COLOR), ENZYMES, CHEESE CULTURE. (taken directly from the Kraft Foods Inc. Web site)

And a block of Cheddar from Cabot Cheese, a brand found in most supermarkets, contains: Pasteurized milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes.

Ounce for ounce, both contain about the same amount of cholesterol (about 25 grams per ounce), and as far as processed foods go, Velveeta has a relatively small number of ingredients. The question to ask, (without judgment, of course) might be: Where do you want your cheese to come from?

Weigh in on this cheezy matter in the comments area below.

Velveeta-Free Queso

Ingredients
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups heavy cream
8 ounces Monterey jack cheese, shredded
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
salt to taste
1-3 canned chiles, diced (add according to taste)
1 plum tomato, diced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Method
In a medium saucepan, add butter and allow to melt over low heat. Add flour and stir until it is well integrated with butter and mixture is free of lumps. Color will be golden after one minute or so.

Add cream and stir to combine, allowing to heat up until thickened, about five minutes. Stir frequently with spoon and do not allow cream to boil. Add cheese, and whisk vigorously until completely integrated and fluid. Taste for salt and add accordingly. Add chiles, tomato, Worcestershire sauce and cayenne, and stir to combine. Add more seasoning as you see fit.

Serve warm with your favorite chips. Can be reheated, if done gently. Makes nearly one quart dip.

Velveeta-Free Queso

Ingredients

1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 cups heavy cream

8 ounces Monterey jack cheese, shredded

3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

salt to taste
1-3 canned chiles, diced (add according to taste)

1 plum tomato, diced

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne



Method
In a medium saucepan, add butter and allow to melt over low heat. Add flour and stir until it is well integrated with butter and mixture is free of lumps. Color will be golden after one minute or so.

Add cream and stir to combine, allowing to heat up until thickened, about five minutes. Stir frequently with spoon and do not allow cream to boil. Add cheese, and whisk vigorously until completely integrated and fluid. Taste for salt and add accordingly. Add chiles, tomato, Worcestershire sauce and cayenne, and stir to combine. Add more seasoning as you see fit. 


Serve warm with your favorite chips. Can be reheated, if done gently. Makes nearly one quart dip.

By Kim ODonnel |  October 17, 2007; 9:43 AM ET Entertaining
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Comments

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Do you think we might get the recipe for the spicy broccoli dip?

Posted by: I really like dips! | October 17, 2007 12:30 PM

Velveeta has a certain comfort to it, with it's melty cheesy remember childhood goodness. I like it only with the Kraft box of Velveeta Shells & Cheese (but I promised myself to try your mac & cheese recipe the next time I get the urge for it). Despite my fondness for that product, the fact is that Velveeta doesn't *taste* like cheese and the texture is terrible unless it is melted. Your recipe for queso sounds great and it looks like the roux fixes the melted-cheese-separation problem. Because it is so high-fat, I better wait until I have a group together so I can have a bit and they will eat the rest!

Posted by: DC Cubefarm | October 17, 2007 12:40 PM

I've been able to get a passable cheese sauce with lower-fat milk. It does work better when the cheese sauce will be used with other ingredients (poured over or mixed something, like pasta or veggies). The quantities do change though - I may use a greater ratio of roux to milk. But it is an alternative if you only have skim or 2% milk on hand.

Posted by: Kensington | October 17, 2007 3:53 PM

Velveeta is NOT vegetarian ("enzymes"), so that dip is not veg friendly if you use it. Many of Cabot's cheeses are, as they do not use rennet.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2007 4:22 PM

Well, I'm quite surprised that Velveeta has so few ingredients and that the preservatives and food coloring sound like things I've actually heard of before. Whey protein solids are something I use to make protein shakes/smoothies all the time!

Posted by: Sean | October 17, 2007 6:01 PM

Heavy cream? Seems a bit excessive.

Half and half is probably more than rich enough for a dip, and whole milk would be just fine for a sauce. I'd probably go with 2 tbs each butter and flour for 2 cups of liquid in those cases though.

Posted by: K | October 18, 2007 10:31 PM

Thank you for giving us an alternative to Velveeta! Every time I eat that stuff I get a serious headache and stomach ache. That's a sure sign I should not be eating "plastic cheese"! I remember bieng a kid and liking it, but now it's a serious health hazard!

I'm storing this recipie!

Posted by: Annamaria | October 19, 2007 3:34 PM

Thank you, Kim, for the advice! Here's the recipe with the Velveeta, but I look forward to trying the substitute:

Hot Broccoli Dip

One yellow or Vidalia onion, chopped
Four stalks of celery, chopped
Three broccoli crowns, cut up
Jar of pimientos, drained
One package of Velveeta
One can diced chiles, drained
1 tbsp. Rosemary leaves, crushed
1 tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Dash (or two or three...) of Tabasco sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Steam broccoli and chop into bite-size pieces. Set aside.
Saute onions and celery over medium heat. Reduce heat and add Velveeta, stirring until melted. When the cheese is melted, move the pan off the heat. Stir in broccoli, pimientos and all other ingredients. Return to the stovetop and heat for a few minutes. (This step is optional...you can just put it right into the oven.) Pour dip into lightly greased pan (I use a pie pan) and place in oven. Cook for 20-30 minutes, checking it after 10 or 15. When it starts to bubble around the edges, stir it and let it continue to heat until heated through. Serve hot.
Enjoy!

Posted by: Catonsville Brocolli Dip | October 24, 2007 3:27 PM

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