Jill M. Rohrbach
Anybody that knows me very well at all, knows that I love cheese dip. People tease me about needing a straw instead of chips, or say that it’s not blood but cheese that runs through my veins. So imagine my delight at being asked to be a judge at the first-ever World Cheese Dip Championship, which will be this Saturday, Oct. 9, at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock. All proceeds will go to Harmony Health Clinic, a free medical and dental clinic in Little Rock.
Contestants will be divided into professional and amateur categories and will vie for the coveted titles of World Professional and Amateur Cheese Dip Champions. There will be numerous sub-divisions, each with their own awards, as well as a salsa competition where participants will be using only Arkansas-grown produce. The overall professional division champion will win the opportunity to participate in the 2011 New Orleans Roadfood Festival, www.neworleansroadfoodfestival.com, held in the historic French Quarter.
This exciting new event is presented by Velveeta and Ro*tel – for me, a staple food combination, particularly in my college days.
In addition to cheese dip tastings, there will be cheese-making demonstrations for kids and adults, live music, arts and crafts vendors, chip-making demonstrations, as well as a tent featuring Arkansas-made cheese paired with Arkansas beers and wines. The festival organizers, in all of their wisdom, also plan to show the Arkansas v. Texas A&M football game on the outfield Jumbotron. Razorback football and cheese dip – another awesome combination.
Under the umbrella of the non-profit Southern Cheese Dip Academy, the World Cheese Dip Championship’s mission is to create a first-class event and draw festival participants and attendees from throughout Arkansas and across the United States and become the single critical authority on all things cheese dip. After all, it appears Arkansas may be the birthplace of this rich, creamy culinary delight. Little Rock lawyer Nick Rogers traced the background and meaning behind the dish, by way of interviews with historians, journalists, chefs, and the publicist for Ro*Tel. Click here to watch his documentary. We also have him to thank for creating this fabulous cheese dip championship event.
I grew up on the cheese dip of Mexico Chiquito, a restaurant that began in North Little Rock, where I was born and where my aunts, uncles and grandparents lived for many years. I remember all of us going to eat there together. The recipe cooked in our family kitchens is reported to be a close version of Mexico Chiquito dip.
Then in college (the University of Central Arkansas in Conway), I became a fan of Stoby’s. A friend gave me the alleged recipe and it is in my cheese dip file as well. I think it was my brother who added the Creamy Taco dip to our family recipe box. I don’t know if you can call it cheese dip really or not, even though it does contain a pound of Velveeta. I haven’t made it in a long time, but I remember liking this pack-on-the-pounds dip every once in a while. Of course, sometimes the thing I crave is the simple cheese dip variety of Velveeta and Rotel.
Cheese dip has always been a part of my life. I married a Yankee and the first time I went home with him to Moline, Illinois and we went to a Mexican restaurant, I could not understand why there was no cheese dip on the menu. Two things I had to teach one of my sister-in-laws about: cheese dip and sausage gravy. I took it for granted that everybody ate it.
If cheese dip is new to you, or if you love cheese dip as much as I do, try out the following recipes. And if you have one you’d like to share with me, by all means, please do email it to me! I’ll see you this weekend at the World Cheese Dip Championship!
1 pound Velveeta cubed
1 can Rotel tomatoes and green chiles
Microwave or heat on stove top on low, stirring occasionally until cheese is melted. Serve with chips.
Mexican Cheese Dip (my family’s favorite)
Half of a stick of butter
4 Tbsp. flour
1 heaping tsp. ground mustard
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 Tbsp. ketchup
1 tsp. jalapeno pepper sauce
2 C milk
Half of a jalapeno pepper pod
6 oz. grated cheese
1/8 tsp. garlic
Make a roux with the butter and flour; then, add rest of ingredients. Serve with chips. (I also like to warm tortillas and dip them in my cheese dip.)
1 lb. ground beef
1 can Rotel tomatoes and green chiles
1 pint whipping cream
1 block of frozen chili
1 large box velveeta
Brown ground beef and drain. Put this in slow cooker/Crock Pot or heat on low on stove top. Add whipping cream, block of chili, and stir. Cut Velveeta in chunks and add. Stir all of this and cook on low until cheese melts.