Most grocery stores carry small cans of chipotle peppers, often seen as "chipotles in adobo sauce". From burgers to dipping sauces, this is the secret ingredient in most of the chipotle recipes popping up on menus everywhere. Chipotles can be added to any recipe begging for smoky spice. We especially love it in a salsa of fire roasted garden tomatoes. And, of course, this dip that we can't get enough of...
Smoky Chipotle Cheese Dip (Newly improved recipe!)
8 oz cream cheese (I use vegan cream cheese because I seem to be always teetering on the edge of veganism. Miyoko’s vegan cream cheese is particularly wonderful in this dip.)
1/4 to 1/2 lb aged cheddar (an English white cheddar is perfect) (So much for the veganism.)
1 small to medium canned chipotle pepper plus 1-2 tsps of its sauce
1-2 T ranch dressing (Ah, there it is, America)
1-2 green onion stalks, chopped (optional)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder or a clove of fresh garlic (If I have time I’ll use fresh roasted garlic here)
1 or 2 dashes of cumin
Pulse cheese cubes in a food processor until finely and evenly ground. Add remaining ingredients (minus green onion) and pulse until smooth. Note: The amount of chipotle pepper determines spice level. You might start with 1/2 of a small pepper and blend in more as desired. For a milder dip, use less chipotle and more paprika*. One typical chipotle pepper gives a mild+ spice level.
*I suggest investing in a good quality smoked paprika. The difference between that and a stale grocery store brand is immense, and you'll find yourself sprinkling it on everything. I buy this 2-pack on Amazon for $10 because it comes with a hot and mild version.
Transfer dip to a serving dish and stir in most of the green onions, sprinkling the remaining ones over the top for garnish. Dip can be eaten right away, but especially delicious if ingredients are allowed to mingle a few hours.
Variation 1: Add a handful of chopped tomatoes to the finished dip, microwave until warm, and top with fresh chopped cilantro and chopped green chilis for a spicy, melty queso that's as good drizzled over eggs or burritos as it is scooped with tortilla chips.
Variation 2: For that 1970s suburban goodness, form the dip into Chipotle Cheese Amazeballs. After the dip is made, transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for an hour. Remove and dip and shape into one large or several smaller balls. (My grandma would have then slathered the whole ball with cocktail sauce.) Of course, rolling the balls in slivered almonds is another kitschy party/funeral favorite. Be sure to serve it in orange Tupperware!