Sometimes it’s nice to cook for friends who favor a particular cuisine because it steers you in a new direction. Normally, I default to European/Mediterranean things like pastas and chicken with couscous and preserved lemon and stuff like that. My friends Jim and Todd (you know them!) are Tex-Mex fans and so, when I cooked for them last week, I decided to pull The Homesick Texan Cookbook off the shelf to delight them with food that they love. Turns out, I love it too and now I have some new dishes up my sleeve to pull out at dinner parties. The one I’m most excited about? Queso with Chorizo (it’s in the title of the post, duh.)
Before we get to that, here was the main affair: Pork Chile Verde, which you can find online here but it’s a slightly different version in the book. I was nervous to make a green chile stew after the time I served a watery green chile stew to my friend Mark who’s from New Mexico and, as polite as he is, couldn’t really pretend that my attempt was any good. This was a different thing altogether; lots of green stuff goes in with the pork…
(Poblanos, jalapeños, tomatillos, lime juice….)
Living on the edge, as I do, I roasted my poblanos over an open flame:
And was pretty heavy-handed with the spices:
The key step, of course, is getting the pork really, really brown before adding everything else. It’s tempting when you have a big pile of meat like that to just add it all in during that first step, but then the pan crowds and all this liquid starts coming out and everything just steams in its own juices–not caramelizing–and your stew has 12% the flavor it might have otherwise. My solution? Get two pans going, making sure to deglaze the 2nd pan with some water and adding that to your braising liquid:
Sometimes you just know, when you add everything to a stew that it’s going to be really good; can’t you just tell here?
Three hours later, my instincts proved correct.
Here’s a tip: any time you make a pork stew with chiles? Make sure tomatillos are part of the ingredient list. They provide acidity and zest and perk everything up to a whole new level. This stew gets served with sour cream and cilantro and if you make enough, you can eat it throughout the week. It only gets better as it sits in your fridge.
What else did I make? Butterscotch Blondies, also from Lisa’s book (and btw: did you know Lisa just opened a restaurant in New York called El Original? And Jim is about to star in a Broadway show? These are two reasons I need to get to New York this summer.)
Despite how much we loved the stew and the blondies, the thing that stayed with me the most was the thing that was the easiest to make… and that’s the Queso with Chorizo that we pigged out on at the beginning.
Ever find yourself paying $12 for something at a hip restaurant and then one day you make it at home and you’re like, “Why would I EVER pay $12 for that again?” That’s how I feel now about Queso.
I’m not even looking at the cookbook, but I have this memorized, it was so easy. Are you ready?
STEP ONE: Take three links of raw chorizo (note: NOT SPANISH CHORIZO, which is already cooked) out of their casings and fry the meat in a cast iron skillet with a little canola oil, breaking it up as you do. When the meat is fully cooked–just after a few minutes on high heat–remove it to a plate.
STEP TWO: Pour out the grease, let the pan cool for a minute or two (I forgot to do this and the cream bubbled up a bit too much) and then pour in 1/2 cup of cream. When it comes to a simmer, add 8 ounces of grated Monterey Jack cheese.
STEP THREE: Stir that together and when the cheese melts, turn the heat off and stir the chorizo back in.
STEP FOUR: Sprinkle some cilantro on top and serve with a big pile of tortilla chips.
That’s all there is to it and MAN, that chorizo flavor mixed with all of that cheese is so winning. And so easy. Really, I will probably never order this in a restaurant again because it’s such a cinch to make at home.
So thanks, Jim and Todd, for liking Tex-Mex the way that you do. Now, in an emergency, I can make Queso with Chorizo and feed thousands. Or three. Either way, I’m glad to know how.