This recipe for The Very Best Queso is handwritten in my oldest and most treasured recipe book that I started, oh, probably about 20 years ago. It has tree frogs on the cover, along with some doodles that I probably drew while I was on the phone with my mom, waiting for her to find the recipe that I had asked for. Inside are a lot of her recipes; for things like apple pie, vegetable lasagna, her famous roast chicken, chocolate chip cookies; the basics that one needs to master when learning how to cook like an adult human (as opposed to the stuff that’s cooked when you’re a college-age human. Eek.) Also in it are random recipes I found in magazines that sounded particularly great, along a couple from the first restaurant that I ever worked in.
And then there’s this QUESO. In the book it’s titled “Queso a la Stewmody”, since the recipe was perfected by my best friend Jen and her husband Jay, who take queso very seriously. (Stewmody is the combination of their last names) They gave me permission to share it here, and you should thank them for that, because it seriously is the best melted cheese magic I’ve ever had. I’ve made it countless times over the years, and each time I do, I am amazed at how perfect and addictive it is. I’ve held out on sharing it here since it’s basically all dairy and I try to keep that to a minimum here. But for those of you who tolerate and love cheese, don’t wait another second. Make this.
The Very Best Queso
prep time: 15 minutes
cook time: about 20 minutes
yield: about 4 cups of queso, serves a crowd
2 poblano peppers (about 1/2 pound)
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cassava flour
2 large or 3 small roma tomatoes (about 1/2 pound), seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups heavy cream
1 pound cheese*, grated (about 4 heaping cups)
- Roast the poblanos: If you have a gas range, place them directly over the burner on high heat, turning occasionally with tongs, until charred all over. If you don’t have a gas range: Place the poblanos on a baking sheet and place directly under the broiler, turning occasionally with tongs, until charred all over. Once they’re completely charred, transfer to a heat proof bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside. After about 5 minutes, rub off the skins, remove the seeds, and mince. (Resist the urge to run under water to remove the skins, you’ll wash off most of the smoky flavor.)
- Heat the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion and the salt and sauté for about 8-10 minutes, or until softened and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally
- Stir in the cassava flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Stir in the minced tomatoes, minced poblanos, smoked paprika, and cayenne. Cook for another minute or so, stirring constantly.
- Pour in the cream and scrape up any bits that stuck to the bottom of the pot. Stir constantly while it heats. Once the cream begins to simmer and thicken, stir in a handful of cheese at a time, mixing until each addition is melted. When you add the last handful, turn off the heat and stir until the all of the cheese is melted. Season to taste with salt, smoked paprika, and cayenne, if desired.
- Serve warm with your favorite chips.
* For the cheese: I like a combo of (roughly) equal parts jack, pepper jack, and mild or medium cheddar. Chipotle cheddar is great too, if you can find it. Feel free to use your favorite jack / cheddar type cheeses, depending on your preference.
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