When you make this smoky, cheesy, beer-infused dip, it will catapult your cooking cred to new heights. It is not only one of the easiest dishes to prepare right every time, but it is addictively good. Your friends will beg for the recipe. And it’s a tasty way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
May 5th is just another day for most folks, but around my house, Cinco de Mayo is time to party. Not that down here in Cajun country, we need a reason to party, but whenever there is a celebration, we break out the party food. And my Tasso Chili Cheese Dip is a celebration waiting to happen.
Little known fact: Cinco de Mayo is as much an American celebration as it is Mexican. Truth be told, it isn’t an actual historical holiday at all since as everyone knows Mexican Independence Day is celebrated on September 15th. Originally, back in the 1960s some party-loving California college students decided they needed a Hispanic holiday to celebrate and the May 5th anniversary of the Battle of Puebla was chosen. It went dormant for awhile and then surged again in the 80s when beer marketers seized the holiday and advertised it heavily across the United States. A keg of Corona and a gallon or two of queso later, a new modern-day holiday was born. Needless to say, it caught on and is now celebrated as much in America as it is in Mexico.
Enough with the history, let’s talk about the Cajun connection of this dish. Yes, it has Mexican roots, and here in South Louisiana, it is hard to escape the culinary influence of our Tex-Mex neighbors just three hours down I-10. But my recipe deviates from the usual, and it brings home the flavors of my Acadiana with a Cajun flavor explosion.
This South Louisiana version starts off with what else–a roux. Yeah, bacon grease and masa corn flour is the perfect intersect of Cajun and Hispanic flavors. Spice-cured tasso ham is a local component that adds depth of smokehouse flavor. It can be found anywhere in South Louisiana or ordered online. A hearty craft beer (I go with Covington Brewhouse Bayou Bock) with the sweet, malty aroma and the distinct taste of hops adds flavor. This full-bodied lager is the counterpoint to the smoked spice of the sausage. Chipotle chiles (smoke-dried jalapeño) with their adobo sauce layers on extra smoke and spice. And finally cheese—three kinds of cheese. I mix spicy pepper jack and smooth velvety Velveeta (not actually cheese, but a cheese product) with a finish of melting Oaxaca, a white, semi-hard Mexican cheese similar to mozzarella.
Cinco de Mayo or not, this is one party dip that doesn’t even need a special day to celebrate.
And one more thing, kick this cheese dip party up by filling individual bags of Fritos with the stuff. It’s a Cajun thing. Back in the day (these days, too), South Louisiana kids love Frito Chili Pie. Just slice open the bag, ladle in the cheese dip, and shovel the chips into your waiting pie hole. You know the drill!
- 1 tablespoon bacon grease
- 3 tablespoons Masa flour
- ½ cup diced yellow onion
- 1 (12-ounce) bottle of full-bodied beer
- 1 ½ cups chopped tasso or smoked ham
- 2 canned chipotle peppers, chopped plus 2 tablespoon adobo sauce
- 1 medium fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, such as Rotel
- 1 tablespoon chile powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 1½ cups grated pepper jack cheese
- 1½ cups cubed Velvetta cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Dash of hot sauce, optional
- 1 cup shredded Oaxaca cheese
- ½ cup chopped green onion tops
- Tortilla chips, for serving
- Individual bags Frito chips
- In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat, add the bacon grease and masa flour. While whisking, cook until the flour just begins to turn brown and add the onions. Stir until the onions turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the beer and stir as the mixture thickens. Add1 cup of the tasso along with the chipotles, sauce, jalapeno, cilantro, and Rotel. Season with chile powder, cumin, and Cajun seasoning. Add the cheese, lower the heat to a simmer and continue stirring until it melts, about 5 minutes. Season with a grind of black pepper and a dash of hot sauce to taste. Just before serving, top the skillet with the remaining tasso and the shredded Oaxaca cheese, and let melt, about 5 minutes. Garnish with green onion tops. Serve in the skillet with warm tortilla chips.
- For the Frito chili pie, cut open the side of each bag and ladle in the hot dip. Add a spoon (plastic, of course) and an ice-cold beer.
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