Top o’ th’ evenin’ to ye, lads and lassies! As EAT MORE HEAT’s resident ginger, it falls to me to bring you something Irish-inspired for St. Patrick’s Day. Unfortunately, I’ve never eaten any spicy Irish food, so I’m going to have to cheat on this one. Fortunately, the color scheme for the day is green, which gives me the perfect excuse to write about one of my favorite products ever: Native Texan’s Hatch Green Chile Queso. It may not be Irish (or anywhere close to it, for that matter), but this queso is so damn good that it’s worth stretching the theme just a bit. Just consider this a little pot of golden cheese, and we’ll be good.
Water, Hatch Green Chiles, Cheese Blend (corn starch, maltodextrin, whey, dextrose, cheddar cheese [pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes], yeast, xanthan gum, lecithin, gum arabic, spice extractives), Canola Oil, Tomatoes, Cheddar Flavor (cheddar cheese [pasteurized milk, cultures, salt, enzymes], cream, mozzarella cheese [part skim milk, cultures, salt, enzymes], yeast), Natural Flavor (includes butter culture, fermented dairy products), Emulsifier (enzyme, modified egg yolks, salt).
I frequently balk at lists of ingredients that contain many additives and chemical components, especially here on Salsa Sunday, where I’m looking for natural products that taste fresh. But let’s be honest: this is cheese in a jar. If you want it to have any chance of surviving for a while on a shelf, it needs to pack some of this stuff. Thankfully, there’s nothing disturbing or out of place in this list.
In all fairness, there’s nothing new about the way this stuff looks. Native Texan has cooked up a pretty standard-looking chile con queso, one that has the typical yellow hue and chunks of peppers and tomatoes resting within. The cheese is pretty thick, as you’d expect, but not so thick that it retains the shape of the jar no matter what you do with it.
Smell and Taste:
Okay, so it smells a bit like your average nacho cheese. The Hatch peppers aren’t really a noticeable presence in the scent, which is kind of a bummer. But wait! The flavor is a different story! There’s a legitimate melted-cheddar flavor to this product, as though someone took a big block of Wisconsin cheddar and melted it down. I mean, they obviously didn’t, given the brand name, but that’s kind of what it tastes like, with tomatoes and peppers thrown in for good measure. It’s difficult to pick out the Hatch green chile flavor specifically, but the peppers do lend that characteristic zing to the cheese.
This queso won’t burn your taste buds off, but the heat does build up to a comfortable Medium, with the cheese offsetting the peppery heat just enough to keep it from going any higher. My favorite part about this, though, is simply how good it tastes. I. Love. This. Queso. It has become one of my guilty pleasures, honestly, and I’ll eat it whenever I get the chance. It gets a Notable from me.
Obviously, you could just eat this with chips. But if you want to be more inventive, you can pretty much just substitute this for shredded cheese on nearly any food. Want to make some cheesy fries or tater tots? There’s a jar for that. Need some cheese for your breakfast or dinner taco? There’s a jar for that. Feeling alone and desperate, like nobody loves you? There’s a jar for that, too.
I will make it my goal to bring you all an actual Irish dish of some kind next year. If you have any suggestions and/or recipes for us in the meantime, feel free to leave a comment below!