Shannon is an old friend from college who’s lived in the U.K. for what seems like forever. She visits Texas often and last summer I hosted her and a two of our close college girlfriends for dinner. After popping champagne to celebrate the momentous occasion of the four of us actually being in the same country at the same time, the conversation turned to her ‘must dos’ in Texas.
“Oh, I have to go to Chuy’s,” she exclaimed.
I cocked my head. “Really? Chuy’s is your Tex-Mex of choice? I’m more of a fan of Pappasito’s, Mi Cocina, or rather the little hole-in-the-strip-mall place down the street, Salsa Tex-Mex. I mean, it’s good and all, but why Chuy’s?”
Shannon returned the jaw-dropping look of shock. “Have you ever had their jalepeno ranch dip? Tell me you haven’t. Or else you’d understand.”
Well. That next day, using all those skills I’d learned as an expat in the Netherlands, I decided I didn’t need to go to Chuy’s to discover this deliciousness. I’d just make it myself. And boy, am I glad I did. My new Belgian friends love this recipe.
1 cup (230 grams) sour cream (zure room)
1 cup (230 grams) mayonnaise
1 packet dry Ranch dressing mix
½ cup (45 grams) pickled jalapenos (See Pearl of Wisdom below)
½ cup (25 grams) fresh cilantro (koriander)
2 Tablespoons lime juice
Wash and pat cilantro dry with paper towels. Using herb or kitchen shears, cut cilantro leaves from the stem. Discard stems and chop cilantro into chunky pieces. (You can use a knife, or put all those leaves in a coffee mug and snip away with the same shears, points down). Pour sour cream, mayo, dry Ranch Dressing mix, jalapeno peppers, lime juice, and cilantro into a blender or food processor. Pulse until smooth. Pour dip into a bowl and serve with tortilla chips.
Pearl of Wisdom, Jalapenos – I’ve used jarred pickled jalapenos in the U.S., jarred jalapenos in Belgium, and fresh jalapenos. Personally, I’ve found fresh ones my favorite – but my family isn’t afraid of a bit of spice. Jalapenos, however, are a little hard to come by in both the Netherlands and Belgium. I’ve found both the jarred and fresh at Albert Heijn grocery stores. (I’ve found Old El Paso jalapenos at the American Store in Antwerp, sans expiration date. Upon bringing them home I discovered they were soft and mushy – so I threw the jar away. I love that store, but beware of products without expiration dates.) Albert Heijn sells a fresh pepper packet which includes a variety of about five different peppers, including one green jalapeno.
Pearl of Wisdom #2, Jalapenos – The heat from the jalapenos comes from its seeds and inside membranes. Most recipes calling for jalapenos assume that you will remove the seeds and membranes before chopping (unless you’re my Aunt Gloria who is a crazy native Texan who can’t eat anything spicy enough!) When removing the seeds and membranes, use a knife, not your fingers. The oils from the jalapenos will permeate your skin and leave them burning for hours. Hours! (One of those life lessons learned the hard way about 15 years ago. I’ve never forgotten. That, and never put potato peels down the garbage disposal. Ah, young culinary experiences…)