Antonis Achilleos
Active Time
25 MIN
Total Time
25 MIN
Yield
Serves : Serves 8

At my house, we often have what we call Snack Dinner, a meal that lets everyone enjoy a little bit of this and bit more of that—you know, snacking! It’s sort of like a mashup of a cheese board (but with less cheese), a charcuterie board (but with less meat), and a crudités platter (but with more heft). I usually build a Snack Dinner around a central dip or spread, with lots of fresh vegetables. There might be cheese and/or cured meats involved, too, but it all ends up being a healthy meal because, even though there may be a few indulgent items on the tray, there are still all those veggies.

This particular Snack Dinner has a bowl of warm, creamy queso at its heart—but not just any queso. I wanted a healthier version, one that didn’t rely on processed cheese. And though I’ve never been the type of mom who sneaks vegetables into dishes (I’m incredibly fortunate to have kids who love vegetables, so no need to sneak), I decided to add pureed sweet potato to queso: The orange color is right at home, the smooth texture helps to thicken the dip, and the subtle sweetness adds more dimension. There’s still cheese involved (I didn’t want the dip to be that healthy)—Colby-Jack, which melts beautifully and offers a little sharp flavor. The key, though, is to shred your own from a block; pre-shredded cheese is typically tossed with starchy stabilizers to keep it from clumping, and that can make for a grainy, gloppy end result.

For dippers, I like to include some tortilla chips, of course, but I supplement with crunchy vegetables like cucumbers, bell peppers, radishes, and jicama. I always build out these meals on a half sheet pan. It’s the largest platter I own, and the raised edges hold everything in nicely. (It also looks pretty great in a photo, filling an entire rectangular frame.) I might tuck in a little bowl of nuts, cherry tomatoes, pickled vegetables, or olives, and then I fill the rest of the space with produce. It’s a great meal for movie night, the big game, or a night of card games. Because everyone loves snacking, especially when it involves cheese dip.

How to Make It

Step 1    

Preheat broiler to low with oven rack 8 inches from heat. Set aside 1 tablespoon chopped onion for garnish. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium. Add garlic and remaining 7 tablespoons onion; cook, stirring often, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in cumin, chili powder, and salt; cook, stirring often, 30 seconds. Whisk together evaporated milk and cornstarch in a bowl. Add milk mixture to onion mixture; cook, stirring often, until bubbly and thickened, about 4 minutes. Add sweet potato; whisk until smooth. Fold in diced tomatoes and chiles and half of cheese.

Step 2    

Spoon mixture into a shallow 3- to 4-cup baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining half of cheese. Broil in preheated oven until cheese melts, about 2 minutes. Garnish with reserved chopped onion and, if desired, jalapeño and cilantro. Serve warm with assorted dippers.

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