I don't think anyone would call me a sports fan, but when my hometown NFL team makes it to the Wild Card playoffs, I can cheer and stomp and shimmy with the best of them. My main focus, though, is always the food. And since my team lost, for the rest of the playoffs, I'll stick to cooking up the snacks and pouring the drinks, while also seeking comfort in queso.
Originally known as chile con queso, there are many versions of this beloved dish starring flame-broiled melted cheese. Everyone has their own take, including the popular Tex-Mex version of Ro-Tel and Velveeta. I've had queso with everything from roasted pulled pork to tofu but I always go back to the basics.
Here's a simple, meatless version that coaxes flavor from caramelizing onions and chiles. You can always add ground chorizo, beef, or chicken while sautéeing the onion; just be sure to pour off most of the excess fat before adding the cheeses. Perfect for game night and fireside snacking or for keeping yourself occupied while the others cheer on their winning teams.
Roasted pepper queso fundido
Makes 4 to 6 servings as an appetizer
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow or white onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 large poblano or Anaheim or 3 large jalapeños, stem and seeds removed, diced
1 (4-ounce) can roasted green chiles
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
7 to 10 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese
7 to 10 ounces shredded cheddar or Mexican cheese blend
Garnishes: pico de gallo; fresh chopped cilantro; sliced green onion; sliced jalapeño; radish slices; pomegranate arils; sour cream
Fresh warm tortillas or tortilla chips, for serving
1. Heat oil in a large oven-proof (10-inch) pan, such as a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add the onion and poblano; cook, stirring often, until the onion and poblano are softened and blistered in some place, about 5 to 7 minutes; reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally. After 5 minutes, add 1 to 2 tablespoons water or broth to help "steam" and soften the vegetables and cook another 10 minutes or until soft and starting to caramelize. Add roasted chiles and stir. Add garlic and mushrooms, if using, salt, chili powder and cumin; stir to combine.
2. Heat oven to broil. Add cheeses to the skillet and stir just to combine. Let the cheese melt a few minutes. Place the skillet in the oven and broil on high until the cheese is golden and bubbling on top, about 5 minutes. Serve with your choice of garnishes and warm tortillas or tortilla chips.