One of our favorite appetizers at a local Mexican eatery is the queso fundido, a piping hot, melted cheese dish, rich with red, spicy chorizo, and served with warm flour tortillas.
I decided to recreate this flavorful dish to bring over to our friends' house.
Jessica and Peter have invited us for their annual pumpkin carving party for the past several years. Hands down, this is the best tradition I've ever heard of. Every year, they invite a few families over to carve pumpkins in preparation for Halloween. And this is not a BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin) party. The family actually cleans out 20+ pumpkins and makes pumpkin pies from the meat for the guests to take home. In addition to the pumpkins and pies, they provide dozens of patterns and the tools to carve. What's more, Peter and his kids draw their own intricate patterns for themselves or at their guests' request.
Don't you wish Jessica and Peter were your friends?
They spread out a giant piece of plastic over their kitchen floor and everyone gets to work. It makes pumpkin carving a lot of fun, and the designs are amazing.
The other reason I wanted to bring over a cheese dish is because the last time I was over for dinner, J&P made traditional Swiss fondue with Emmenthal and Gruyere cheeses. What is queso fundido other than Mexico's version of fondue?
Like Fonda's version, most recipes I found on the web were primarily melted cheese under the broiler. If were home, I would make something like the recipe at Hungry Cravings
or at Recipezaar. There's even an interesting recipe here for a Queso Fundido with lime juice and tequila.
Squirtle the turtle, wolf, scary skull, and jack-o-lantern faces.
But I needed something that would hold up for a few hours in a crockpot, so I wanted something with more liquid. I found the recipe listed below at the Rotel website. Perfect.
I had some Rotel tomatoes, poblanos, and jalapenos from making chili for a cook off (it won, by the way). And my favorite cervezas are Dos Equis Amber and Negra Modelo (although Xingu Black Beer, a Brazilian dark beer, has been recently capturing my attention). No problem there. And I had a bunch of different cheeses in the fridge.
Dwight from The Office tv show, flaming skull, Scooby Doo, Voldemort-type face, Heath Ledger as the Joker (right side in the back), Welcome.
While the recipe below uses Monterey Jack cheeses, other cheeses that melt well are fine for this recipe. In the U.S., cheddar and fontina are regular suspects, but Mexican cheeses can be more easily found these days in American grocery stores. I found this list of Mexican cheese descriptions at Gourmet Sleuth and a history of Mexican cheese making as a result of Spanish colonization at Mexconnect, which are worth looking at, if you you want to learn more. Queso asadero, manchego, and queso quesadilla all seem like good options.
I also want to mention that it wouldn't be beyond me to use some Velveeta cheese in this dish, along with other cheeses, particularly if it's going to sit in a crockpot for a few hours. Because of the emulsifiers in the cheese, Velveeta would work well in this kind of recipe. It melts well, would create a stable base for other cheeses, and most of all, would prevent the kind of coagulation and separation of oil and protein that can happen with melted cheese dishes that are not stabilized with a roux. It's also salty and can stand up to other flavors. Andrew, who is a Fort Worth Texan and who was at the party, would definitely nix this idea, because he said the mix is supposed to be oily after awhile. The next time I make this, I'll try it and report back.
Note: This recipe is for big parties. Cut it in half if you're serving less then 6 people and it's an appetizer.
Queso Fundido with Beer
From the Rotel website
(Ninette's additions in italics)
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 lb. chorizo, casings removed
1 medium onion, diced
1 10oz can RO*TEL® Original Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies, drained
1 small diced jalapeño (remove seeds for less heat)
1-2 poblano peppers, roasted, seeded, and diced or cut in strips
1 1/4 cups Negra Modelo or other amber Mexican beer
2 lb. Monterey jack cheese, shredded (or shredded mixed Mexican cheese that they sell in packs in the grocery store)
2 Tbs. cornstarch
Tortilla chips, Italian bread, apples, veggies
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, lightly brown the chorizo in vegetable oil, chopping and crumbling it with a slotted spoon, about 5 minutes. Transfer the chorizo to paper towels to drain.
Pour off all but 2 Tablespoons of grease from the pan, then return to medium heat. Sautee the onions and jalapeño until soft but not browned, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the can of RO*TEL® and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in 2 Tablespoons of beer, transfer mixture to a large bowl along with the chorizo.
Heat the remaining beer in a fondue pot over medium-low heat. Toss the cheese and cornstarch, then add to beer. Using a wooden spoon, stir cheese in a gentle, swirling motion until the cheese melts, about 4 minutes. Add the RO*TEL®-chorizo mixture and mix well. Transfer the fondue pot from the stove to its stand and heat source.
Serve with tortilla chips, chunks of bread, apple slices, raw veggies.