Editor's note: Last year we published an instructive blog post detailing the various stages queso exhibits as it emerges from the kitchen and sits on your table. Since it's cheese week, and queso is the greatest cheese dish in the history of ever, we decided it was a good time to bring the never-ending cycle of queso enjoyment back to life. Grab a chip and get to scooping.
Queso may be borne out of one of the most forgiving recipes known to man. In its most simple incarnation, a block of Velveta is heated till viscous and seasoned with a can of Rotel and whatever else you have in the bloated cans on your pantry shelf. More refined recipes might fold higher quality cheese into a base of chorizo and onions, but the results are the same: a warm sea of gluey milk fat that's so good your synapses and neurons create a tapestry of deceit that convince you to eat an entire bowlful.
The dish quickly loses it's appeal as it cools, though. At Veracruz Cafe I was served a molten, bubbling, angry sea of cheese that resembled a stiff clay by the time my check came. No matter. I took the block home and later that afternoon tossed it in the microwave. Seconds later I was dipping chips again. The process made me think of all the stages in the cycle of queso enjoyment.
Stage one occurs the second your queso first arrives, provided is was served up at a reputable restaurant. At Veracruz a hot iron skillet ensures it literally boils in steaming red oil. Try the queso in this state and you'll completely raze your taste buds. Not only will your queso enjoyment be ruined, but your entire day will be plagued by cat tongue. Practice patience when the queso is molten.
Stage two occurs just after the bubbling subsides. At this stage the queso is smooth, viscous and pliable. You can scoop it up with a tortilla chip, or spoon it into fresh tortillas before you stuff them into your face. Enjoy phase two. It is the essence of queso nirvana.
Stage three is marked by the structural failure of a tortilla chip. The moment you try and scoop up queso with a chip that snaps you've passed the zenith of queso quality. You can continue to eat if you must, but you'll soon resign to guilt and shame. Do yourself a favor and set your queso aside when you get to stage three.
Stage four only exists when you take queso home as a leftover. After a night in a fridge (or in your back yard) the queso will have the tensile strength of asphalt. In fact if summer didn't exist, roads would be paved in queso. You might even need a backhoe to remove the cheese from its container, which you should because stage four is not the end of the road.
Just because your beloved queso looks like solidified horse vomit doesn't mean you can't enjoy it again. Toss the block in the microwave and your queso will magically transform into a bubbling stage one stunner in a matter of seconds. The queso cycle can be repeated forever, or at least until you've cooked all the moisture out of the mix and nothing but milk protein concentrate remains. Or until you have nothing left but your fingers to dip into it. Or until your microwave dies.