Here’s another recipe adapted from my El Torito days. This is supposed to be an appetizer, but it makes a nice lunch. This is the real deal. Read to the end for the cheap and easy version.
Make a Ranchera Sauce … make a big pot of this and freeze it in quart containers. It’s the backbone of just about every good Mexican dish. This recipe makes about a quart; adjust quantities as desired.
Cook a chopped or sliced onion and some minced garlic in a little oil. Add 3-4 chopped chile peppers (Serrano are good). Add chopped celery and green pepper if you want to, but don’t feel like you have to. Add 4-6 chopped fresh tomatoes, skins and all, or 2 cans diced tomatoes (with or without added chiles). Throw in a cinnamon stick and about a tablespoon of ground cumin. Cook down over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened slightly – it should be more soupy than spaghetti sauce. Simmer over low heat another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove cinnamon stick. Pack into containers, label, and freeze. Thaw as needed.
For the con queso…
In a small saucepan, combine 2 c. Ranchera Sauce and bring to a simmer. Add a large handful grated cheddar/Monterrey Jack cheese. Stir over low heat just until the cheese melts. Do not boil. Pour into a heatproof bowl and sprinkle some chopped green onion and tomato over the top. Serve with warm tortilla chips.
College kid’s quick and easy version. Open a can of diced tomatoes with chiles and pour into a microwave-safe bowl. Add the grated cheese and nuke on high for 2 minutes, stir, then nuke one minute more. Open a bag of chips.
Crockpot party version: you guessed it. Rotel tomatoes and Velveeta. But honestly, once you’ve had the real thing, this will never taste as good.