So let's talk about some food!
This year I'm going easy on the food - with just a couple of easy appetizers and some cervezas. Tim and I have been on a whirlwind few days of parties & social events, so our fiesta today will be low key. BUT, I've had a major breakthrough - I've reached a milestone in life I never thought I'd achieve. I finally figured out a good way to recreate nacho cheese, using real cheese.
Nothing compares to nacho cheese from the can - the giant can! But I don't know what's in that stuff. And I usually don't need a vat of cheese. I mean, sure, a vat of cheese sounds enticing. But, practically speaking? No.
Which has often lead me to making nacho cheese at home - which always disappoints. Either I melt Velveeta, which is too salty, doesn't taste the same, and probably has even more mysterious ingredients than the canned stuff. Or I grate real cheese and melt it on chips, which results in an entirely different taste, texture and experience. (and doesn't taste very good). Or, I make a "cheese sauce" starting with melted butter, flour, milk, and tons of grated cheese. This method is fine for the cheese sauce I pour over steamed vegetables. But it definitely does not qualify as "nacho cheese". The flour taste, alone, is a major disqualifier.
Three methods. Three failures.
Last week, knowing I wanted to perfect homemade nacho cheese in time for today, I went googling around a bit for ideas. I kept noticing several sites mention an ingredient called "Sodium Citrate". I did some research and learned sodium citrate is the salt which comes from citric acid, and its primary claim to fame is its ability to stabilize melted cheese. It prevents the oils in cheese from separating out, and turns a hard cheese into liquid cheese. It sounded like the exact thing I needed to make nacho cheese at home! So I ordered it.
Here's the link to the one I purchased:
Once it arrived, I paired it with some regular ole cheddar (feel free to experiment with any cheese you like!).
It seriously took 5 minutes to make.
Here's the ratio I used:
¼ c Water
½ t Sodium Citrate
4 c Medium Cheddar Cheese, grated
Dissolve the Sodium Citrate: In a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat, combine water and sodium citrate. Heat and stir until the powder has fully dissolved.
Melt Cheese: Add grated cheese, a cup at a time, stirring after each batch. Once all cheese has been added to pan, continue to stir until cheese is fully melted. It should have a creamy consistency.
One note - remember when Dean was working at Doose's Market and Taylor instructed him to stir the nacho cheese every 20 minutes? Yes, you'll still want to do that, and possibly every 10 minutes, or the cheese will begin to harden once again. To me this is a small price to pay for nacho cheese made with real cheese!
Having homemade nacho cheese for our CdM celebration feels like a major coup! To go with it, I made guacamole. Because, hello, it's guacamole. Have you ever noticed how ubiquitous guacamole is on Gilmore Girls? Caesar included it in his "Caesar's Salad", Luke & Lorelai paid $6 for guacamole on one of their dates, and when Logan mentioned a house in San Francisco he and Rory could rent, he made sure to tell her the backyard came with avocado trees. Her first reaction was to tell him she likes guacamole. I'm taking this as proof that Guacamole is universal - in Stars Hollow, in California, and everywhere in between!
This recipe is quick, easy and delicious. So long as the avocados are ripe, but not overly ripe, it'll turn out perfectly every time. I use the fresh tub of pico de gallo (salsa) from the grocery store because it's quicker than chopping up a bunch of stuff, and the flavors have already had time to blend in the tub. Choose the spice level of your guacamole based on your audience - who will be eating this stuff? If they like spicy foods, or if they are smokers, I'd use "hot" pico de gallo, add the crushed red pepper, and possibly a bit more salt. If they are more sensitive to spice, I'd use "mild" pico, and skip the red pepper. Use your best judgement.
Also, I use olive oil to bring out the overall flavors of the guac. If you'd like to reduce calories in this recipe, cut the olive oil. It's a nice to have, not a have to have.
Hope you all enjoy your day!
4 Avocados, ripe
1 c Fresh pico de gallo, strained
3 T Lemon juice, fresh squeezed
¼ c Cilantro, fresh, minced, plus additional for garnish
1 T Olive Oil
¼ t Salt
1 T Crushed Red Pepper, dried (optional)
Pepper, to taste
Skin, pit, and mash avocados: Cut each avocado around the middle, lengthwise. Remove and save pit. Scrape avocado from each half of the skin. Place avocado in bowl. Discard skins. Use a fork to lightly mash avocado - keep the chunks in there.
Add remaining ingredients: Add pico de gallo, lemon juice, cilantro, olive oil, salt and peppers to avocado. Gently combine. Take care not to over stir or it'll be guacamole soup.
Chill guacamole: Press the four avocado pits into the top of the guacamole. Cover the bowl with its lid, foil or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2-6 hours.
Serve: Remove pits. Spoon guacamole into service dish. Garnish with minced and/or whole leaf cilantro. Serve.