Cheddar & Ale Dip

My fiancé and I aren’t really the types to have a local watering hole where everybody knows our name. It’s not that we aren’t social, but we much prefer to entertain from home. The closest thing we do have to our own “spot” is a happening little Irish pub just a few miles away.

Everything—and I mean everything—on their menu is amazing (which is sort of surprising, in that the restaurant lurks in a chain-obsessed suburban strip mall) but it’s the oh-so-sinful ‘cheddar & ale dip’ that keeps us coming back for more.

I have ruined my dinner on that gluttonous appetizer more times than I can count. When it’s in front of me, I have zero control over myself—it is beyond good. And despite the possible ill effects of having constant access, I was determined to get my hands on the recipe. Upon further inquiry, I learned it was a very hush-hush chef secret…the waitress actually laughed in my face when I asked.

Not one to be deterred that easily, especially in the name of a good recipe, I persisted. Little by little I hustled a new ingredient out of a different employee every time we went. (Patience is a virtue, my friend.) Along with a few crucial discoveries and some culinary prowess on my part, I was finally able to create an almost exact replica of their delicious cheesy beer dip. Here it is for you in all it’s ooey, gooey glory!

Cheddar & Ale Dip
Active time: 15 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Yields: 2 cups

Velveeta, a.k.a. processed cheese spread, isn’t usually a “chef’s secret”—in fact it’s usually considered quite taboo—so I was shocked to discover that it was the key to my favorite restaurant’s beer cheese dip. (Their servers do not exactly shout if from the rooftops.)

Use Killian’s Irish Red if possible; I’ve made this with other beers and it isn’t nearly as fabulous. Seek out excellent quality pretzel bread for dunking, either from a bakery or your grocer’s freezer. Keep the dip warm in a crockpot or over a sterno flame while serving, stirring regularly, to keep smooth.

1 (16 ounce) package processed cheese spread, cubed
1 bunch chopped scallions, tops reserved
3/4 cup good-quality beer, preferably Killian’s Irish Red
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 ounces extra sharp white cheddar, grated
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Milk for thinning (optional)
Toasted pretzel bread, for serving

Heat the processed cheese spread in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat until melted and smooth, stirring frequently to prevent scalding. Reduce heat to low to medium low. Stir in the the beer and mustard and let come to a gentle simmer.

Toss the grated cheddar with the cornstarch. Slowly whisk in the cheddar a handful at a time, whisking until each batch is combined before adding more.

Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in milk, a little at time, to thin if necessary (I prefer mine quite thick). Keep warm in a crockpot or over a sterno, stirring occasionally, in order for dip to remain smooth. Serve immediately with toasted pretzel bread.

Nealey moved from Alabama to the West Coast to follow her dreams, only to realize once there how much she missed good ol’ country cooking.  So she took to the kitchen and began re-creating the dishes of her past, but this time without any help from a can. What started out as a hobby turned into an obsession, so she quit her day job to pursue cooking, and eating, fulltime. Dixie Caviar is where you can follow her pursuits of all things Southern.