I've somehow managed to be out of town for the first two years of the annual Quesoff which is (you guessed it) a queso cooking competition organized by my friend Adi and held at the Mohawk late each summer. But not this year! I mobilized a three person team- myself, Laura Lee, and Meredith became the Three Blind Mice. (From my one other experience with competitive cooking-- the Bacon Takedown held at the O.G. Emo's several years back-- I knew a catchy costume couldn't hurt. It worked for "Girls Gone Hog Wild" at least! And sunglasses and ears were easy enough!)
We had some other things going for us too! First of all, all our vegetables were gorgeous, organic gems sourced from Johnson's Backyard Garden, where Laura Lee works. Wonder if any of the other quesoistas could say the same? I think not!
Secondly, we got a little fancy. That's Laura Lee, flambeing our lamb (also local, from Twin County) with some mezcal. We were fairly certain none of the competition thought to use mezcal...
As for the cheese, there's a reason everyone loves Velveeta and Rotel. As "cheese"less as that cheese product is, the consistency is perfect for queso and it's really just about every Austinite's guilty pleasure. So we decided to use a mix of white American and white Velveeta as a base and then add other cheeses on top for flavoring. (plus, who could afford to feed an army a bechamel made from the finest cheese??)
We roasted the chayote and calabaza squash for our vegetarian queso in order to bring a smoky flavors to it, and specks of charred pieces.
Prepping took much longer than anticipated on Saturday morning.. but we finally packed up, faced the muggy day (the air was about as thick as queso) and piled into LL's pickup.
For our meat entry: chipotle lamb chorizo queso with grilled poblanos, portabellas, mezcal, and toasted cancha (a crunchy Peruvian corn introduced to me by Julio of Llama's Peruvian). We decided to let the lamb chorio and the mezcal do the flavoring here, so we didn't add any extra cheese which might complicate things too much.
too bad there wasn't a category for Best Table Display..
For our vegetarian entry (my personal favorite), we did a Shiner goat queso with grilled chayote and calabaza squash, escabeche, and cilantro oil. The escabeche consisted of pickled zsa zsa and sweet carmen peppers, serranos, and tri-color carrots.
made with love
(Just about 12 ounces of goat cheese really came through out of this entire blend, and I think I might dump a Shiner in every pot of queso I make from now on.)
we even used a blue gingham tablecloth!
Maybe I'm biased, but I thought for sure we had at least one winning combo!
throngs of cheeseheads came out
People were even lining up for our queso! (I then found out many of the booths had run out already, lol)
we have a scraper!
Folks were even scraping the bottom of the crockpot! Now that's commitment!
a waste of queso is a terrible thing!
You might've figured it out, but we sadly did not win. I wish I could say I tasted the winning contestant's cheese, but we were far too busy the whole time to check out the competition!
There's always next year.. when the Three Blind Mice will return for final victory! Mwahahahaha!