Gridiron grub

Vegetarian chile con queso blanco brings the heat to a game-day party. … [Express photos/Regan Foster]

These quick game-day dishes are sure to score some extra points

 

Are you ready for some football, Southeast Colorado Springs? 

I have a confession to make: I’m not really a fan of football. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the sense of community that follows joining others to cheer on the titans of the gridiron; but I don’t really understand the game.

For those of you still with me, what I do get is the snacking. From the time I was a kid, a football game wasn’t worth watching if it didn’t have a battalion of finger foods to go along with it. But that begs the question of how to feed a team’s-worth of friends and family when on a budget. 

The answer is, of course, a potluck, and these are two of my favorite dishes to share at a game-day (or other) bash. (Plus, bonus, they use a lot of the same ingredients. If you’re up for making both, ingredients like the bunch of celery, the onion and the garlic can be split.)

Chile con queso has been a part of my family’s game-day tradition for … well … decades. When Mom made it, this slow cooker-compatible dish consisted of three ingredients: A log of American-flavored, cheese-like substance, a can of green chiles from south of the Colorado/New Mexico border and a can of pre-cooked chili. 

Being a proud Coloradoan and a self-professed health junkie, I couldn’t just open the Hatch and subject you all to an inferior product. So I decided to make my own, vegetarian version. 

Between the jalapeno, the green chiles and the fajita seasoning, this dish packs a punch. Plus, with the black beans — or for those of you feeling particularly daring, jackfruit (see cook’s note) — you won’t miss the meat. 

While my queso is bringing the heat, my husband’s traditional potato salad cools things down a bit. 

Like mine, this is a family recipe of sorts. Also like me, he had to mess with it. The in-laws’ family lore says this should be made with mustard powder, but being good residents of the Southwest, we swapped the Midwest favorite for fajita seasoning left over from the queso.

One interesting quirk, this involves giving the spuds a couple of nice, long soaks in an ice-cold bath. If you chill the potatoes before and after boiling them, they hold their structural integrity and develop an amazing creaminess. Don’t ask me why because I’m honestly not sure, but my personal gastro guru Alton Brown would probably say it has something to do with the cell structure of the plant. 

What I can say with 100 percent confidence is they’re really good. 

Whether hot and spicy or cool and creamy, when you show up with either of these dishes at your next game-day potluck, you are sure to score some extra points. 

regan.foster@southeastexpress.org

Vegetarian chile con queso blanco

(Cook’s note: I usually make this recipe with canned jackfruit, an artichoke-like piece of produce that, once seasoned, cooked and flaked out, is almost indistinguishable from chicken. But jackfruit can be hard to find at most supermarkets, so the black beans are a reasonable substitute. If you want to try your hand at jackfruit, increase your cooking oil by a tablespoon, toss the nuggets in with the onion and garlic when sautéing, and give them a good trip through the seasonings.)

15 oz. can whole black beans
1 jalapeño
2 large cloves garlic
1 cup sweet yellow onion
1 10-oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles (we used RO*TEL brand)
1 2-pound block Velveeta queso blanco
1 ½ tablespoons McCormick organic fajita seasoning mix
2 tablespoons oil of choice

Drain black beans into colander and rinse well with fresh water. Set aside and allow to dry. 

Slice jalapeño in half lengthwise, and using the edge of your knife, scrape to remove seeds and central vein. Finely dice the pepper and set aside.

In a large, non-stick skillet, heat oil over high heat until it shimmers. Add fajita mix and stir well to break up any lumps. 

Reduce heat to medium-high, add onions, jalapeño and garlic, and stir well to totally coat the vegetables with oil-and-seasoning mixture. Sauté, stirring frequently, until everything is tender, roughly 3 to 5 minutes. 

Turn off heat and add drained black beans, stirring well to fully incorporate.

Pour cooked onion mixture into a large (8 quarts or more) slow cooker. Open can of tomatoes and chiles, and dump in the contents — juice and all. Stir well to incorporate. 

Break up cheese log and add to the slow cooker. 

Set the slow cooker on high and bake the entire concoction until it is melted and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, give it a good stir, and allow it to simmer the day away until ready to serve. 

— Recipe by Regan Foster

 

While cool, creamy potato salad takes things down a notch.

Somewhat spicy potato salad

5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
6 ribs celery
4 large cloves garlic
1 cup sweet yellow onion
1 ½ tablespoons McCormick organic fajita seasoning mix.
1 heaping cup mayonnaise

Rinse and peel the potatoes. Coarsely chop them into roughly 1-inch cubes and soak them in a cold ice bath for at least 10 minutes.

While potatoes are soaking, bring to a boil a large pot of heavily salted water. Add your thoroughly soaked supds and boil for 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, clean and chop celery ribs into ¼-inch pieces. 

Peel garlic cloves and, using the side of a chef’s knife or a heavy, clean dish, smash them flat. This helps release the strongest of the juices and makes the raw cloves easier on the stomach. Mince them very fine. 

Peel onions and dice into ¼-inch or smaller cubes. 

When potatoes are done cooking, remove from water and immediately plunge back into the ice bath. Soak until thoroughly cooled (about 10 minutes), drain and allow to drip dry. 

Whisk together fajita seasoning and mayonnaise until fully incorporated and mayo is slightly seasoned. 

In a very large bowl, mix potatoes, celery, garlic and onion. Dress with seasoned mayonnaise, making sure all potatoes are fully coated, and enjoy! 

— Recipe by Andy Peterson

What’s the score? 

5 pounds golden potatoes … $3.99
1 medium bunch celery … $2.11
1 yellow onion … $0.80
1 head garlic … $0.79
3 jalapeno peppers … $0.18
Canned black beans … $0.88
McCormick organic fajita seasoning mix … $1.49
Canned tomatoes with chiles … $1
Velveeta queso blanco … $8.99
15 ounce jar mayonnaise … $1.99
Tax (8.25 percent) … $1.83
Total … $24.05

 

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