May 03, 2018

fresh & fiery queso | Torchy's queso copycat recipe

I recently made my very first trip to Austin, Texas for a long weekend signing books, meeting friends, and sharing my hospitality message at a weekend conference with the gals at Church at Canyon Creek! Everything about being in Austin filled my soul! The food, the people, the rolling hills, and THIS QUESO. 

We'd been told by several people to eat at Torchy's Tacos while we were in Austin; but our full plans booked up our mealtimes, and the opportunities had run out! It was late on the last night of our trip, I was at my book table meet-and-greet, and a sweet new friend Anna asked if we'd gotten to eat Torchy's queso yet. We said that we hadn't, and we told her we were sadly leaving and had not more meals to eat in Austin! Sam and I just agreed we must make Torchy's queso a priority on our next Austin visit - whenever that might be. So there was that.

So sweet Anna left. I sat and continued to sign books and hug necks long into the evening. And in a half hour, I saw Anna coming back into the building with a take-out bag of Torchy's queso for Sam and me! Y'all, it had been the longest day. We had schlepped books, set up a merchandise table, and then I had taught for an hour. And although the church had offered me dinner, I didn't eat before I spoke because nerves. So by 10pm, we were hungry! We took that queso back to our hotel room, kicked off our shoes, and ate every. last. bite. Y'all, Anna love-welcome-served me. She used the ministry and comfort of food to meet our needs, ushering in the goodness of God in our lives! It meant the world to me. Full bellies. Happy hearts! And just plain old kindness.

SO ABOUT THIS QUESO. Sake's alive. I wasn't prepared for it. Truly. The first bite was the most memorable bite of melted cheese I've ever had. It was entirely spicier than I expected - but in the best make-your-nose-run way! Torchy's serves their queso ladled over guacamole in the bottom so you stir it in! And the creamy guacamole is perfect with the spicy cheesy goodness. It was really sumpthin'. 

So after daydreaming about this queso for a week after returning to Arkansas, I spent a whole Saturday working on a similar recipe. It's not your quickest, weeknight queso. It's gonna take a minute. But it's worth worth worth it. It's fresh and fiery. As you'll see and love. So here y'all go, my Torchy's Tacos copycat queso!

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-Torchy's Tacos copycat queso-

1 red bell pepper
1 large poblano pepper
1 small jalapeno pepper
vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
3/4 lb american cheese, cubed
3/4 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
3/4 cup shredded mild cheddar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
pinch of salt
several dashes of hot sauce like Tapatio 
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
milk for consistency

Move the oven rack to next-highest position and preheat the broiler on low. Line a sheet pan with foil, lay the three whole peppers on the sheet pan, drizzle with oil, and roast for 3 minutes per side, turning them gently with tongs to allow them to blister on all four sides. Continue to broil/roast until the peppers are tender and the skin is blackened and blistered. Carefully transfer peppers to a bowl and cover immediately with plastic wrap. Allow the peppers to steam in the bowl for 15-20 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Remove from the bowl (use gloves if needed), and use your hands under cold running water to shred/peel the blistered skin away from the flesh. Remove the stem and seeds. 

In the bowl of a food processor, add the flesh of the three roasted peppers plus the garlic cloves. Whir on high until pureed (uniformly chopped up into itty bitty bits but not liquefied.) Pour the pepper mixture in a large, wide saucepan (I use my Le Creuset 3.5qt enameled cast iron braiser), add butter, and saute over medium-low heat until butter melts and the mixture simmers for a minute. Stir in the can of evaporated milk, and allow to come just to a simmer. Stir in cheeses, stirring until melted. Add in cumin, chili powder, salt, and hot sauce. Taste and adjust. Stir in chopped cilantro; add milk one tablespoon at a time to get the consistency you want.  Serve with your favorite guacamole and cilantro for garnish!

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