As promised, I took the Italian-less sausage-less vegetarian sausage, attempted to breath new life into it and duplicate the meat version of this great cheese dip. Whether it turned into a Frankenstein or a Fronkensteen, you’ll have to decide.
If you can’t sleep after eating this, it won’t be because there’s a monster lurking in the shadows. It will be because you kicked a little too much.
The original cheese dip recipe calls for some bulk Italian sausage. That makes it fall outside of even the most liberal vegetarian diet. Looking for a substitute I came across Trader Joe’s Italian Sausage-less Sausage (follow the link to read about this). Like most vegetarian meat-like products, this one fell short of the real thing. But even more important, it seemed to lack some of the seasonings that make Italian sausage Italian.
The dip recipe below follows the original recipe closely. The results were favorable. The texture was there. The flavor was a little off. However for all the trouble, it might be just as good if the sausage-less was left out. If you find a good vegetarian Italian sausage, send a note. The ingredient I did not have here, and is a major part of any Italian sausage is fennel seeds. If you have any, throw them in the marinade.
This produces a thick dip. I usually spoon it over the tortilla chips and reheat in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds if needed.
Pumping up the Sausage-less
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, diced
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoon dried parsley
3 tablespoons olive oil
unknown amount of fennel seed (try a couple of teaspoons at first)
2 links TJ’s Italian Sausage-less Sausage, diced small
Place olive oil, garlic, onion, oregano, basil, parsley in a small bowl. Stir in the sausage-less. Marinate the sausage-less for about 30 to 60 minutes stirring a few times in the middle.
1 pound Velveeta cheese
2 links marinated TJ’s Italian Sausage-less Sausage, from above
1 – 10 ounce can RoTel diced tomatoes with green chilies
3/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red peppers, (adjust to your heat tolerance)
1/2 small onion, diced
Pour the marinated sausage-less mixture into a medium frying pan. Scrap as much olive oil and spices out of the bowl and into the frying pan as possible. Add in the remaining onion, crushed red pepper and black pepper. Stir and brown for about 5 to 8 minutes. When the sausage is cooked, mix in the cumin and cook for about another minute or two. Add the sausage to the melted cheese mixture in the next paragraph. Don’t clean the pan, we’re not finished with it yet.
Cut the Velveeta into 1 inch cubes while the sausage is cooking. Add the cubes to a large microwave safe bowl. Melt the Velveeta in the microwave for about 2 minutes. Remove and stir. Return to the microwave and reheat and stir as needed until the cheese is pretty much melted and fluid. It doesn’t have to be hot or bubbling. It just needs to be mixable at this point. Add the can of RoTel tomatoes and chilies to the cheese. Stir. Heat in microwave for 2 minutes. Remove and stir again. Repeat until everything is blended, fluid and warm.
After adding the sausage-less to the cheese mixture, deglaze the frying pan with a little wine or water (see the link “deglaze“, if you don’t know how). Pour and scrap the deglaze mixture into the cheese/sausage-less mix. Stir and heat the dip in the microwave as needed.
In truth you probably don’t need to deglaze, especially if you’re using a nonstick frying pan. But it looks so cool and impressive to anyone watching. And, deglazing is a fine excuse for opening a bottle of wine.