Lord, save us all. I learned how easy it is to make queso. And I’m about to teach you. And now we’re all going to have to try to resist eating nachos for dinner every single night of pepper season.
Seriously, I apologize in advance. I just couldn’t keep the secret to myself. And in the end it’s really not my fault. We only have my husband to blame.
I was never really a queso person until I met my Carrot, who, as we know, is blessed with the highest of metabolisms (even before he started working in what is possibly the most high calorie burning profession there is). I was a Chipotle-no-tortilla-thank-you-I’ll-take-a-burrito-bowl-without-the-cheese kind of person before him. But all through college my Carrot kept insisting Qdoba was the superior burrito chain. When he finally convinced me to tag along and gave me a bite of his burrito slathered in queso cheese sauce, I understood what was really going on. Chipotle was still better. Dude just had an addiction to cheese sauce.
And now here we are. It’s ten years later and I had to learn how to make queso myself so we could eat nachos for dinner. You see? 100% my dear sweet Carrot’s fault. The ying to my yang. The peanut butter to my jelly. The queso cheese sauce to my otherwise nutritious, salad-heavy life.
Anywho, even though I’m embarrassed to admit my enthusiasm for queso, I love sharing this recipe as August prepares to turn towards September because this is a time of year we’re always awash in peppers. The tomatoes have peaked and they’re just about to start decreasing in volume. The melons and sweet corn too are on their way out. The winter squash, root crops and fall alliums aren’t quite ready. The real highlight of our late August and early September boxes are the peppers: the beautiful array of sweet colored beauties and spicy treats.
The trouble with this sudden focus on peppers is that I don’t always know what to do with a whole bunch of hot peppers. A jalapeno or two can easily be put to good use, but when we get into “high pepper” season, it can be a bit daunting. I bring a bag of shishitos, a couple of poblanos and a handful of banana peppers home from the farm because they’re just so darn beautiful and then don’t quite know what to do with them all.
Enter: queso cheese dip. The magic solution to too many peppers.
It’s so rich and creamy it can handle a tremendous amount of peppers and a good amount of heat. We’ve been making our queso with banana peppers and poblanos, but you could experiment with whatever you’ve got: green sweet peppers, colored peppers, jalapenos. They would all work nicely.
Then, when you build your nacho bowl you can add even more peppers if you like: sauteed fajita style or sliced thin like I do here with a jalapeno. If I have them on hand, I also love to blister a bunch of shishitos and eat them on the side. Shishitos go well with pretty much any rich sauce and this hot pepper queso is no exception.
I know it’s a rather decadent recipe for a light and fresh time of year, but it’s a fun dish to make during a hot week and devour on the back porch with a cold glass of something delicious. I hope you enjoy and don’t become as addicted to queso as we are. However, if you do, just remember it’s my husband’s fault.
NACHO BOWLS WITH HOT PEPPER QUESO
Takes 30 minutes
Makes 4 cups
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bunch scallions, sliced, divided
2 poblanos, seeded and finely chopped
3 banana peppers (or other hot peppers of your choice), seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1-1/2 cups milk, divided
1 8-ounce block cream cheese, cut into cubes
3 cups shredded cheese (Monterey Jack, Cheddar, and Brick would all work—or use a blend)
2 tomatoes, cored and diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
- Melt butter in a large saute pan or deep skillet over medium low heat. Add half the scallions, peppers, and salt. Saute for 10 minutes until vegetables soften and become very fragrant.
- Add ½ cup of the milk along with the cream cheese. Stir consistently until the cheese has melted and is mostly smooth. Reduce heat to low.
- Add remaining milk followed by shredded cheese. Stir until incorporated, about 5 minutes, and remove from heat.
- Add diced tomatoes and gently stir until combined. At this point it is ready to go! You can puree it with an immersion blender or food processor for a smoother texture.
- To build your nacho bowl, place a handful of chips in a large, deep bowl. Top with about 1/2 cup of queso followed by cherry tomatoes, jalapeno and remaining scallions. Add guacamole and salsa, if using. Feel free to make it more of a meal with black beans, sweet corn, and/or seasoned steak or ground meat.