Game Night: Late Night Cheeseburger Dip
Now that we are officially into what I call ‘Sports Season’, I can lose Mike for hours at a time. He’s easy to find though, I just follow the howling and fist pumping down to the family room where The Game is on the telly. Don’t ask me what game, because I usually don’t know. I believe that there is usually football on Sunday and Monday, but from my experience the hockey games just sneak right up on you. Apparently Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday are equal opportunities for fans to drink beer, eat wings and curse over missed opportunities to shoot and score.
As for me, all that I’m interested in is the beer and wings. The game can go puck itself.
As a loving partner and enthusiastic hostess, I’m happy to have people over watching ‘the game’, even though I couldn’t care less about what game is on, and which dog-abusing quarterback is pitted against which depraved womanizer. Okay, actually, that’s a lie. If Michael Vick and Tom Brady are ever going head to head, Mike will make sure that I don’t know about the game because I might actually implode in a cataclysm of white-hot rage. In fact, even thinking about it is making my toes curl and I’m starting to snarl. Whoo-ee, on to happier things! Let’s talk about food.
The only thing that I get really excited about during Sports Season is the opportunity to make football food. I have a theory that if tailgating had even a smidgen more popularity in Canada, I could be coaxed into being a sports fan. I adore tailgating food. I love finger foods and I love things that are grilled, seared, saucy or dry. I love cheese and meat, and I love any excuse to eat food that I would publicly shake my head at with sneering scorn, but secretly crave. For example, cheeseburgers. In dip form. C’mon now, look me in the eye and say that you’re not picking up what I’m throwing down.
From now until Superbowl, I promise to bring you a semi-regular series of my favorite game night foods. Yes, there will be wings, people. There will be things wrapped in meat, and meat wrapped in things…that are wrapped in meat. Oh yes, and there will be CHEESE. Oh, dairy goodness!! Even the thought brings me joy. Every now and then I need to take a break from healthy living. I figure that the steamed cod and herb stuffed peppers, will still be there on Monday, so let’s bring on the fun!!
You may have seen recipes for cheeseburger dip before, because there are hundreds of them out there on the internet. And of those hundreds, 99% start with….Velveeta. Look, I’m not going to lie to you. I have Cheez Whiz in my fridge even as we speak. When I shanghai myself on home-brew wine (an event that I like to call “a Tuesday”) I scoop it straight out of the jar with celery sticks and chomp away. Mike will refuse to kiss me for easily a day or two, and I consider that to be my (very) guilty private pleasure. If I told Mike that his dinner would involve a processed cheese food product, he would flatly refuse to eat it. The great man Grant Achatz could walk up to him with a ravioli of truffled duck confit in a yuzu Cheez Whiz sauce, and he would turn up his nose and walk out the door. Sadly, you will never see a Cheez Whiz or Velveeta inspired recipe on this site. But…I still want that smooth, thick and not-particularly-milky spoonable texture. You know what that means, right? Beer and cheese fondue, but cheeseburger style.
Late Night Cheeseburger Dip
I refuse to put in a number of servings here, because it could be 4 (we ate half ourselves last night) or 14, depending on if people show restraint. Although I don’t know why they would.
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/2 large sweet onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 lb (250 g) extra lean ground beef
- 1/4 cup ketchup + more to garnish
- 1 bottle (341 mL) beer
- 1/2 cup water OR beef stock *
- 7 oz (200 g) sharp old cheddar cheese
- 2.5 tbsp corn starch
- 2 tbsp mustard
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 smallish dill pickles (1/2 cup finely chopped)
- salt and pepper to taste
* Beef stock will give the dip a slightly richer, beefier taste. That said, I rarely have home made beef stock on hand and I hate opening up a carton and only using a half cup (inevitably spilling the rest of it in my fridge over the next couple of days). Water, or more beer of course, can be a fine substitute.
Pour the beer and water/stock/more beer into a medium pot and set it aside. This will give the foam and carbonation in the beer a chance to evaporate somewhat, which is a good thing for making cheese sauce.
Mince the garlic and chop half of the large, sweet onion. Divide the onion into two portions and finely mince one half. Set the minced onion aside for later.
Heat the butter in a large skillet set over moderately low heat. Add the chopped (not minced) onion and garlic. Sweat the onions out for 10-12 minutes until they are golden, fragrant and sweet. You want to keep the temperature slightly lower than ‘medium’ when you’re doing this, because you don’t want the garlic to burn over a higher heat and you want the onions to get buttered up and build a slow, sweet sweat.
When the onions are gently caramelized, crumble in the ground beef and raise the heat slightly. Break the beef up into as fine a mince as possible while it cooks. Instead of using the tip of your wooden spoon to do this, try actually dragging and mashing the beef into a paste like consistency using the flat part of the spoon. This may feel like a strange technique at first, but the beef mince will end up much finer and more granular, rather than having large chunks of meat. This is a good thing, because large chunks are fine for taco night but not necessarily dippable for game night.
Season the meat liberally with salt and pepper as it cooks.
For just a moment, let’s talk about browning meat. Just because your meat has lost it’s pink, that doesn’t mean it’s browned. That usually means that it is…well, grayed. Continue cooking the beef for at least 5 minutes past this point, stirring only intermittently, to allow the meat to caramelize in spots and actually brown.
Stir in the quarter cup of ketchup. When the ketchup is fully incorporated and absorbed by the meat, take it off the heat and set it aside.
Grate the old cheddar (if you’re using pre-shredded old cheddar, aim for about 2 + 1/4 cups) and toss it with the corn starch.
Remember the abandoned pot of beer that was put aside? Set it over medium heat and bring it to a simmer.
Slowly sprinkle in small amounts of the cheese, whisking quickly for about 30 seconds after each addition. At first the beer will foam but it will quickly calm down and realize that cheese may be a foreign material, but we do this for the greater good.
This part of the process may seem a bit like drudgery, but it is important that you don’t add the cheese too quickly/all at once and you really do have to keep whisking. Remember, THIS IS NOT VELVEETA. Real cheese can easily seize and separate, which would dismay me utterly and ruin your dip. It shouldn’t take you more than about 5 minutes of whisking, and if you start to get bored, just remember why you’re doing it: LATE NIGHT CHEESEBURGER DIP.
When all of the cheese is added, the mixture might seem a little bit thin. Give it another minute or two, whisking periodically, and cornstarch will do what cornstarch does and thicken up the sauce beautifully.
Stir in the mustard and Worcestershire sauce.
Finely mince the dill pickles which are now ready to join the finely minced onion. Set aside just a teaspoon of each for garnish.
Add the ketchup infused meat, onions and pickle to the cheese sauce. Stir to incorporate and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Squeeze a swirl of extra ketchup on the top and sprinkle with the reserved pickle and onion for garnish. Serve the cheeseburger dip piping hot with mounds of tortilla chips for happy scoopin’, and brandish your victory dip high above your head as you go down to watch the game with your buds.
Cheesy, beefy, and with all the fixings, this is like a molten cheeseburger in a bowl. When you mention that it has a beer base, I can guarantee that you won’t lose any of your sports fans.
Sure, I have no interest in football, hockey, basketball or even blessed cricket, but if you put this dip in front of me I’ll gladly sit down to watch the game with you. Well, at least until the dip is gone, and then so am I.