Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Vegan Bob Armstrong Dip is Vegan B.A.D. (in the acronym sense and in the way Michael Jackson means it)

Last week I had the urge to create something new. I wanted to “veganize” something decidedly un-vegan. The Double Down? It had already been done. Plus, it was kind of creepy even in its vegan state. I thought, “What’s a local, iconic dish in need of a vegan-friendly makeover?”

Luckily, a new Mattito’s moving in across from my office provided some much needed inspiration. Bob Armstrong dip. It’s not overly complicated, it’s delicious, and it’s apparently beloved (sometimes to the extreme) amongst the denizens of our fair burgh. Plus, it’s Tex-Mex, and Tex-Mex is to Texas as Chili’s* is to 49 other states. That is to say, it’s our default answer to “What should we eat in order to make everyone in our party of 2-100 happy?”

For those of you unfamiliar with the dish, Bob Armstrong Dip is an “off-the-menu” appetizer originally found at Matt’s El Rancho in Austin that found it’s way north to the family’s Dallas-area restaurants, Matt’s Rancho Martinez and Mattito’s. I use the term “off-the-menu” loosely as 60% of the time, everyone in the restaurant orders it every time. The components: queso, guacamole, sour cream, and ground beef. [It is worth note that I’m finding conflicting info on sour cream’s inclusion in the original recipe in addition to the fact that Mattito’s appears to not be in the original family any more. Oh well, who cares about history when your brain is set on feeding your mouth vegan B.A.D.? Ok, was that acronym awesomely placed? Methinks so.]

Decent vegan queso has been a mystery in my household. No more. I’ve adapted the recipe from this site (I realize you can no longer find the recipe on that site, but I bet if you use the wonders of Google, you will find that someone was nice enough to use a cached version and put the recipe in a popular vegan forum**). First adaptation: double the recipe - you’ll want more, trust me. Second, skip the mustard and add a handful of cheddar Daiya and a handful of mozzarella Daiya at the same time you’re adding your Earth Balance (or whatever vegan margarine you’re using). I would also suggest that you use a whisk AND a spoon in order to get the flour and nooch out of the corners of the pot when trying to get a thickened but smooth texture (add a tad more water if needed, you can always cook a bit longer to thicken it out). Also, be liberal with those “dashes” of chili powder and garlic powder.

You should now have a pretty amazing queso base. Is it good enough to just stop and eat? Sort of. The flavor and, more so, smell (very important) will be genuinely queso-esque. The texture isn’t quite there yet. The good news is that you’re about to fold a bunch of creamy ingredients into the mix to solve this problem. The whole here is certainly greater than the sum of the parts.

Guacamole. I’d almost always tell you to make homemade, fresh guacamole studded with chunks of delicious avocados. Almost always. I found this stuff, and, quite frankly, it’s the best “guacamole in a box” that I’ve ever had. The added bonus is that it’s much creamier than the fresh stuff. Plus, who wants to slave over a cutting board for 30 minutes to get the perfectly sized diced tomatoes and onions when your extra efforts will be indiscernible once mixed into a delicious conglomeration? “Not you” is the correct answer. [Please don’t call me a slacker, I make some mean fresh guac too. Trust me, this is for your own good].

Sour cream. I took a poll and Tofutti won out.

Ground beef. I tried Upton’s Naturals’ Ground Beef Style Seitan. I didn’t see it on their website, but they have it at the Whole Foods on Park (isn’t that technically at Greenville and Blackwell? Yes.). When preparing, I’d suggest using a bit of oil in a medium-hot pan and using a sturdy spatula to break it apart as you cook it. Five minutes or less - pretty easy. But, feel free to use your favorite vegan ground beef-style whatever.

Assembly. Pour yourself a big bowl of vegan queso. Add a big spoonful of guacamole, another of Tofutti sour cream, another of your ground beef-style seitan, and maybe some pico de gallo for garnish. Admire your work briefly:

Stir together completely. You now have the creamiest, queso-iest vegan dip in the world. Skeptical omnivores like my wife even like it (seriously). I wish I had pictures of the stirred version, but 4 of us literally ate that whole bowl (and a second one – don’t judge). I’d suggest serving with plenty of tortilla chips, tortillas, and a few (or more) beers or margaritas. Perfect for sunny afternoons on the patio, all Summer long.

*Speaking of Chili’s, if you follow this recipe, but omit the guacamole and pico de gallo, and go easy on the Tofutti sour cream, you have something eerily close to their Skillet Queso, only "veganized."
**No luck? Here.


Unknown said...

Oh. My. Gosh! I never imagined in my 7-month-old vegan imagination that I could enjoy something this decadent that was still dairy free! I've made it 2 times now in 1 week since I read this post. I found the queso recipe, and added the Daiya, some dried cilantro, medium salsa and Frank's Red Hot sauce to make it spicier. I decreased the cumin since I thought it dominated. With a blob of Tofutti sour cream, store bought guac and some Quorn crumbles, this was absolute heaven! Thanks for sharing this!

bc said...


Glad you like the recipe. I will say that I'm not 100% sure as I type this, but I think those Quorn products contain eggs or something. I just know there's a reason I never bought them when I was testing various "ground beefs" for this. I seriously can't recommend those Upton's Naturals fake meats enough - they're really good in everything I've used them for thus far. Or Gimme Lean is another alternative that's good at taking on other flavors if you wanted to make a taco spiced "meat" for this recipe.

I would have recommended the Morningstar Crumbles back in the day, but they went and added eggs to that perfect recipe too. Sigh...

Unknown said...

Oh yikes. I better check the Quorn label before I buy them again. I've never tried the Upton brand; in fact I don't know if I've even seen it before. I'll keep my eyes open for it. I have tried Gimme Lean, and it's not bad. Thanks for the heads up on Quorn.

Monique a.k.a. Mo said...

I've never heard of this dip, but I must make it! It sounds and looks frickin fantastic!