I’m not much of a boxing fan. As a kid, I’d spend my afternoons jabbing and dodging punches from Bald Bull, King Hippo and Von Kaiser in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out! on NES. But I’ve never been one to watch it on TV, until this past weekend when I watched the historic fight between Floyd “Money” Mayweather and Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao. Only one food proved great enough to live up to the hype of the world’s most anticipated boxing match: Queso Fundido with Red Chile Vinaigrette.
Queso fundido originated in northern Mexico as a campfire dish. Now it’s traditionally served as party food. The version known as queso flameado features cheese that’s flambéed with a high-alcohol liquor. Queso fundido often includes spicy chorizo sausage, onion and tomato.
This dish is adapted from one of my favorite recipes by Iron Chef Bobby Flay. I’ve loved Flay since my first trip to Mesa Grill with M in 2006. We loved this flavorful and complex queso during our visit. For our first Christmas together, M gifted me with the Mesa Grill Cookbook, and it’s the one recipe I’ve made over and over again over the years.
The queso comes together in a flash, making it the perfect dish to prepare just as guests are beginning to arrive. The key to this recipe is a good melting cheese, and monterey jack fits the bill. A semihard cow’s milk cheese, monterey jack originated in California. It’s creamy, mild in flavor and has a sublime texture when melted. For this queso, a mixture of monterey jack and pepper jack are melted into a béchamel, topped with slices of goat cheese, sprinkled with ancho chile powder, and then broiled until brown and bubbly.
Flay’s recipe includes a poblano chile vinaigrette. I love his version, but I was craving something smoky and complex. I made a red chile vinaigrette with dried New Mexico chiles and Chile de Arbol, softened with lime juice, red wine vinegar, honey and olive oil.
The smooth pepper jack and goat cheese float on the palate as soft as a butterfly, until the spicy red chile vinaigrette sneaks in with a left hook as powerful as a bee sting. This recipe is a knockout, folks.
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup milk (reduced fat is okay)
- 12 ounces mexican cheese blend (monterey jack, pepper jack, etc.)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Ancho chile powder (optional)
- 4 ounces goat cheese, cut into small pieces
- Red Chile Vinaigrette
- 2 dried New Mexico chiles
- 2 dried Chile de Arbo chiles
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Juice of 1 lime
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 garlic clove (or ¼ tsp granulated garlic)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- For garnish
- 2 tablespoons cilantro
- 2 spring onions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons red radish, thinly sliced
- Make the vinaigrette: Discard stems and seeds of New Mexico and Chile de Arbol chiles. Tear chiles into pieces and place in a small bowl. Soak at least 15 minutes. When chiles are soft, place in a food processor or blender, along with honey, red wine vinegar, garlic, lime juice and olive oil. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add additional lime juice, honey, red wine vinegar or lime juice, as needed.
- To make queso fundido: Preheat oven to broil. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, about 1 minute. Whisk in the milk slowly and continue to cook, whisking continuously, until slightly thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cheese blend with a wooden spoon. Add ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Continue to stir until melted and smooth. Add a drizzle of milk if mixture becomes too thick.
- Scrape the cheese mixture into an oven-safe casserole dish or 8-inch case iron pan. Top with slices of goat cheese and a dusting of ancho chile powder. Broil until bubbling and golden in spots. Drizzle with red chile vinaigrette and sprinkle with cilantro, green onions and radishes. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.