I love the idea of fondue. What I do not love is the hassle. You have to buy all this equipment — fondue pot, tiny skewers that inevitably get lost in the chaos of your utensil drawer — and then there’s the labor of actually making the fondue, including lots of time spent grating cheeses and mixing them with herbs and white wine until perfectly smooth. Even when I’m planning for a dinner party, I’m probably not doing all that work, especially when I know that there is a decidedly easier way.
Enter microwave queso. A staple of casual parties and Tex-Mex cuisine alike, queso is, objectively, a perfect food, and you don’t even have to work that hard to make it: Instead of bashing your knuckles on a box grater, you simply need to cut a block of Velveeta into workable chunks, stick it in a bowl, and pour a can of Ro-Tel on top. You could, of course, get American cheese and roast your own jalapenos or whatever, or add a few dashes of hot sauce or browned chorizo to the mix, but there’s no real reason to do that: Velveeta is the perfect complement to Ro-Tel, itself a well-balanced blend of chiles, spices, and tomatoes. I’ll say it again: Queso is the perfect food.
So why don’t people consider it when they think of “fondue”? Is there really a fundamental difference between the bubbling cauldron of a cheese fondue and the more diminutive-sounding “dip,” a category that queso firmly falls into? Is it the heating element, the idea that fondue is a delicate beast that must be gently kept warm? (If you don’t have a fondue pot, a Crock-Pot can be used to keep queso molten on the table, and you won’t even have to worry about it getting clumpy or hard to dip as you feast with your guests.) Or is it the idea that something delicious can be created from a can, with a simple blast in the microwave?
Queso deserves the fondue treatment, because anything tastes better when dipped in Velveeta. It works with plain ol’ crudites or a box of frozen puff pastry-wrapped cocktail wieners you bought at Costco. Chips and pretzels are an obvious choice, but don’t stop there — why not dunk batons of seedy bread, tiny meatballs, or tender roasted potatoes into the spicy, gooey goodness?
And even though it may lack the Alpine cachet of classic fondue, there’s no denying that queso can hold its own at pretty much any gathering. As much as this is a method for “lazy” fondue, it’s also a method for a real crowd-pleaser of a fondue, and isn’t pleasing your guests the objective of any party? Don’t feel guilty for serving up a bowl of microwaved Velveeta and Ro-Tel — literally no one is going to be disappointed to see a giant pot of queso on the table.