Editor's note: Every week, we'll spotlight a culinary treat found around Dallas-Fort Worth — whether it's a new opening, a dish at a restaurant, or a grocery find.
Dish: Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles and Chipotle Peppers
Location: Supermarket aisle
Ro-Tel canned tomatoes are the building block of proper queso, the other block being Velveeta. The Chipotle chain learned the hard way when it tried to introduce a queso made with "real" cheese that the Velveeta version is the one most people crave. Do not try to give us "real" cheese.
The queso most people love is the world's dumbest recipe, which Ro-Tel is nonetheless not embarrassed to post: Combine one can of Ro-Tel and a block of Velveeta. Heat until blended. Voila: queso.
Ro-Tel tomatoes are definitely a Texas thing. Founded in 1943, they were originally available only in San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas.
In the '80s, Ro-Tel decided to bump it up and partnered with Kraft, maker of Velveeta, to turn queso dip into an Official Thing.
In the '90s, Ro-Tel began expanding its line, introducing hot and mild versions, no salt, habaneros, and more; there are now nine varieties.
Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies and Chipotle Peppers is the newest. It was released in late 2017 and is now readily available at supermarkets.
It is unquestionably the best. Sorry, Fire Roasted, the most previous newbie which was introduced in 2015, but you've been beat.
The new ingredient is chipotle peppers, added to the original recipe of diced tomatoes and green chilies.
"This brings a smoky taste to any dish where Ro-Tel can be used, from everything to meats and fish to traditional queso," says a Ro-Tel spokesman.
You hear "chipotle" a lot in Texas, and not because of the Chipotle chain. Chipotle is a staple flavor in Tex-Mex and Southwest cuisines, and a favorite for chefs like Dean Fearing and Stephan Pyles.
A chipotle is actually a jalapeno pepper that's been dried and smoked. It might be the most perfect chile ever. It's warm but not hot; moderately smoky without hammering your nasal passages; and a little sweet.
Straight out of the can, Ro-Tel with chipotles is a little sharp and astringent, as canned tomatoes often are, and the smokiness of the chipotles is almost harsh.
But when blanketed by melted cheese in a Ro-Tel chipotle queso (seen here on Instagram), the edges soften. The tomato-chipotle mix gives the tangy, creamy cheese warmth and dimension. The sweet-and-smoky with the creamy are irresistible — rendering old-school Ro-Tel queso dull by comparison.
As with all Ro-Tel products, the chipotle version has chunky chopped tomatoes which add substance to the texture, and make you feel like there is possibly something "healthy."
That Ro-Tel would introduce a chipotle pepper flavor seems inevitable, since recipes have been circulating in which you combine Velveeta, regular Ro-Tel, and canned chipotle peppers.
This just allows you to do it with one less can.