A processed cheese product (like Velveta) is often used in making Queso because it melts more smoothly. Using evaporated milk in this recipe helps the “real” cheese melt smoother and makes for a creamier consistency. The results are pretty fantastic. You can use your favorite milder, harder cheese (like Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Colby, or a Mexican cheese blend) in this recipe, but don’t use cheeses like Mozzarella, Brie, Swiss, or Goat Cheese (or obviously, Bleu Cheese).
This Queso keeps well for several days in the fridge. It reheats very well too. You can just zap it in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until warmed through.
A simple dish of Chile con Queso with tortilla chips is wonderful, but you can take it to greater heights with the addition of toppings. Queso can be serious business. One of my favorite restaurants in Austin, Texas is Magnolia Café. They have the best Queso ever. Their Mag Queso is topped with avocado and Pico de Gallo. It’s amazing! The Kerbey Queso at Kerbey Lane Cafe in Austin is great too. I have also had Queso with shredded BBQ brisket, refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, and Pico that was delicious. There are no limits.
Creamy Chile con Queso
2 tablespoon butter
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 -2 jalapenos, to taste, seeds removed, minced
1 tablespoon flour
1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (mild Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Mexican cheese blend, etc…)
1/2 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, drained
salt, to taste
dash garlic powder
1 – 4 tablespoons milk, if necessary
fresh cilantro, chopped
fresh onion, chopped
fresh avocado, diced (or guacamole)
fresh tomatoes, diced
pickled jalapeno slices
Pico de Gallo
black beans, warmed
shredded brisket, chicken, pork
cooked ground beef or sausage
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and jalapeno and cook, stirring often, until softened. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Whisk in the evaporated milk a little at a time, whisking well to dissolve flour lumps. Reduce heat to low and whisk in the shredded cheese, a little at a time. Continue to whisk until all of the cheese is added and the Queso is smooth. Add the drained diced tomatoes, salt, and garlic powder. If the Queso is too thick, you can add a little milk, about a tablespoon at a time, to thin to desired consistency. Serve the Queso warm, topped with desired toppings (I like fresh avocado, cilantro, pickled jalapenos, and chopped tomatoes) alongside tortilla chips.
This colorful salsa, eaten with tortilla chips is a tasty snack. It is also a nice addition to tacos, fajitas, or rice bowls. It can even be eaten on its own as a side dish or salad of sorts. It keeps well in the fridge for a week or so.
Poblano chiles (fresh or roasted) can be substituted for the bell pepper and jalapenos.
1 pound frozen corn
1/2 large onion, small dice (red onion looks pretty with corn)
1/2 green bell pepper, small dice (you could also use red bell peppers)
2 jalapenos, or to taste, minced
handful fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of 1/2 lime
kosher salt, to taste
Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the frozen corn and cook, stirring often, until heated through and starting to char. Cooking it this way really brings out the sweetness of the corn. Let the corn cool completely.
Once the corn is cooled, add the remaining ingredients and mix to combine. Taste and add more lime juice or kosher salt, if needed.
This sauce is amazing! It’s sour, sweet, herbaceous, pungent, salty, and spicy. So flavorful. It is a perfect example of what I love about Vietnamese food.
This sauce is versatile. It can be used as a dipping sauce for spring rolls as well as a sauce for grilled chicken, beef, pork, fish, or shrimp. I served it with grilled chicken atop rice vermicelli noodles and spring rolls. So good.
It’s a spicy-hot sauce, but you could control the heat by using mild jalapenos. I used one serrano and one jalapeno and it was hot, but not too hot.
If you do not have a mortar and pestle, you could surely make this sauce in a food processor or blender.
Vietnamese Cilantro-Chile Sauce (Nuoc Mam Ngo)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 2 chiles, stems removed and chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 – 1/2 lime (rind and all), chopped (to taste)
1 tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce
Add the chopped garlic and chiles to a mortar and use the pestle to pound them into a course paste. Add the sugar and cilantro and pound until smooth. Add the chopped lime and pound with the pestle until liquefied. There will be chunks of lime rind. Stir in the fish sauce and let sit for at least 10 minutes for flavors to develop.
Making cranberry sauce from scratch is almost as easy as opening a can. The result tastes so much better than anything you find in a can. If you are having turkey for Thanksgiving, you have to have cranberry sauce as well. The two just go together. I like to make the cranberry sauce a day or two before serving. That gives the flavors time to develop.
My family are not crazy about cranberry sauce, so we always have leftovers. I never know what to do with them. What are your favorite ways to use leftover cranberry sauce?
Spicy Cranberry Sauce
1 12-ounce bag of fresh (or frozen) cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 – 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
juice and zest of 1 lime
1 cinnamon stick
pinch of salt
Place all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool completely before refrigerating. Remove the cinnamon stick before serving.
The Hatch green chile season is winding down. For those who don’t know, Hatch chiles are a type of mild New Mexico chiles grown in the Hatch Valley of New Mexico. They have to be grown in that area to be considered Hatch chiles. That particular environment is responsible for their uniqueness. They are a big deal and they are fabulous.
When I lived in Texas, it was easy to find Hatch chiles. You just had to follow the smell of roasting chiles in mid to late August/early September to a local vendor. Outside of the southwestern part of the United States, it is harder to find Hatch chiles. I was lucky to find some here in South Carolina this week. I bought all they had (only about 5 pounds) and roasted them for future use. I skinned, seeded, and chopped the roasted chiles and froze them in 1 cup portions. If you can’t find Hatch chiles, Anaheim chiles or other long green New Mexico-type chiles can be used.
Chicken and Mushroom Enchiladas with Hatch Green Chile Sauce
For the Hatch Green Chile Sauce:
8 Hatch green chiles, roasted, skinned, seeded, and chopped* (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
2 cups chicken broth
For the Chicken and Mushroom Enchiladas:
1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded (this is a great way to use leftover chicken)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 8 ounce package mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 cup, fresh spinach, chopped
salt and black pepper, to taste
4 ounces pepper jack cheese (or Monterrey jack cheese)
8 corn tortillas
To make the Hatch Green Chile Sauce:
In a skillet or large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute. Add the flour and continue cooking for another minute. Whisk in the chicken broth. Add the chopped green chiles, cumin, coriander, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking often. Reduce the heat to a low and simmer for about 15 minutes, whisking occasionally, until thickened but still very pourable. If you prefer a smoother sauce, you can puree the mixture with a hand blender at this point. Keep the sauce warm until ready to use.
To make the Chicken and Mushroom Enchiladas:
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute. Add the mushrooms and cook until they start to release their liquid. Stir in the shredded chicken and chopped spinach. Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Cook the mixture until any liquid is gone.
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Spray a baking dish with Pam. Spread a thin layer of the Hatch Green Chile Sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.
Wet several paper towels and wring them out. Wrap the corn tortillas in the damp paper towels and microwave for 45 seconds or until warm and pliable.
Divide the chicken and mushroom filling evenly between the 8 corn tortillas. Add about 1 tablespoon of shredded pepper jack cheese to each enchilada and roll up (not too tight) to enclose the filling. Place the enchiladas seam side down in the baking dish. Top the enchiladas with the remaining Hatch Green Chile Sauce. Sprinkle a little more cheese over the enchiladas and bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly
*How To Roast Fresh Chile Peppers
This method works well for roasting a small quantity of chile peppers. Use a long handled cooking fork with a handle made with a non heat-conducting material. Pierce the pepper with the fork and hold the pepper over a gas flame (or grill flame), about 4″ from the heat source. Or use tongs. Keep turning the pepper until it is evenly charred on all sides. The pepper skins should turn black when properly roasted.
For a larger quantity of chiles you can use a stove-top grill that fits over a gas or electric burner. Sit the chiles on top and turn occasionally to allow even charring.
Preheat your oven to 450°F. Spread the peppers evenly on a cookie sheet, in a single layer. Roast the peppers on the top oven rack for about 4-5 minutes until he skins blister. Watch carefully so they do not burn.
Clean and Peel
Place the roasted peppers in a plastic or paper bag and seal the bag – or – in a large bowl and cover with foil or plastic wrap. Allow the chile peppers to sweat in the bag or bowl for about 10 to 15 minutes. When you remove them from the bag or bowl they will be easy to peel. Do not peel them under running water. Peel the chile, remove and discard the skin, seeds, and the veins.
I’ve been trying to come up with a soy-free, fish-free, and iodized (or sea) salt-free substitute for soy sauce and fish sauce. I I saw a blurb in the January 2015 issue of Saveur magazine about a chef (Christian Puglisi of Relae in Copenhagen, Denmark) who makes a Mushroom “Soy” Sauce to add umami to his dishes. I adapted his recipe to fit my needs for a low-iodine diet (LID) I have to go on soon.
Use the Umami Sauce instead of soy sauce or fish sauce (a great way to veganize Asian dishes) in recipes or incorporate into other dishes to add a umami/mushroom flavor. I used the umami sauce in a low iodine diet version of Pad Thai. I was really happy with the results.
8 ounces white button mushrooms
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Slice the mushrooms and place in a bowl. Sprinkle the salt over the mushrooms and mix to distribute. Let the mushrooms sit for 1 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Line a small colander or mesh strainer with cheesecloth over a bowl or measuring cup. Pour the mushrooms and their liquids into the strainer. Gather the edges of the cheesecloth and squeeze out all the liquid from the mushrooms. You can use the mushrooms for another purpose. Store the mushroom liquid (Umami Sauce) in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Roasted Poblano Sauce
In a heavy saucepan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until well softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté for an additional minute, then add the flour and continue cooking for another 1 or 2 minutes. Mix in the poblano chile. Pour in the stock and add the seasonings. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, until thickened but still very pourable.
The sauce keeps refrigerated, for about 5 days and freezes well.
Adapted from a recipe for Green Chile Sauce in The Border Cookbook by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison.
To roast poblano chiles:
Preheat broiler to high. Place poblano chiles on a baking sheet and broil, turning every 5 miutes until each side is blackened and charred. Place in a large bowl and cover with foil. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel chiles, cut in half lengthwise, discard seeds and membranes, and coarsely chop. Use immediately or freeze for later use.