Say Cheese

Recipe and photos by Brandon Matzek

Imagine - and then create - a warm cast-iron skillet filled with melty layers of cheese, roasted poblano pepper and sautéed onion and garlic. Finished with a vibrant green poblano sauce and leaves of fresh cilantro, this Roasted Poblano Queso Fundido is a must-have at any Cinco de Mayo bash. For a more traditional experience, serve with warm flour or corn tortillas. Crunchy tortilla chips, an American accompaniment, also work well here.

This Queso Fundido is made with a mix of Monterey Jack and Oaxaca cheeses. The Monterey Jack adds a pleasant tanginess to the blend, while the Oaxaca cheese lends a smooth, melty texture. You can find Oaxaca cheese at Specialty Produce or many Mexican markets around town.

Roasted Poblano Queso Fundido
3 poblano peppers
1 small onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced and divided (1 for the cheese, 1 for the puree)
2 tbsp. canola oil (or other neutral oil), divided (1 for the cheese, 1 for the puree)
1 cup (8 oz.) grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup (8 oz.) grated Oaxaca cheese (mozzarella works well here, too)
Juice of 1 lime, plus more to taste
Kosher salt
Fresh flour or corn tortillas, for serving
Cilantro leaves, for serving

Fired up. Preheat a broiler to high heat and set an oven rack as close as possible to the broiler. Place poblano peppers on a baking sheet and broil until blackened and blistered all over, turning several times to ensure even cooking. Transfer peppers to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the peppers steam for 10 minutes. This will make them easier to peel. Peel the blackened skins off each pepper, then remove and discard the stem. Open the peppers so they lay flat on a work surface and remove all seeds. Dice all peppers, but keep them separated. One pepper will be used for the Queso Fundido, the other 2 for the Roasted Poblano Purée.

Get melty. Preheat an oven to 425°F. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil to an 8-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add onion with a pinch of salt and cook until soft and just starting to brown (about 5 minutes). Stir in 1 minced garlic clove, 1 of the diced poblano peppers and another pinch of salt, cooking just until fragrant (about 1 minute). Stir in grated cheese, then transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake until the cheese gets all melty, and the surface develops golden brown spots (10 - 15 minutes).

Flavor bomb. While the Queso Fundido is cooking, make the Roasted Poblano Purée. Place 2 diced poblano peppers, 1 minced garlic clove, lime juice, 1 tablespoon canola oil and a pinch of salt in a small food processor or blender, pulsing to combine. Season to taste with kosher salt and lime juice.

Sauce and serve. Wrap tortillas in foil and warm in the oven for 5 minutes while the Queso Fundido is cooking. As soon as the Queso Fundido comes out of the oven, top with several spoonfuls of the purée and a scattering of cilantro leaves. Serve immediately with warm tortillas.