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Cajun Queso

Chef Isaac Toups takes fondue to a new level by giving it a Cajun twist in his cookbook Chasing the Gator. The Pepper Paste of Pain recipe makes 5 cups, but you only need a teaspoon of it for the queso. Be sure to drain off some of the liquid before using. Save the rest and use it wherever you would use hot sauce. Or simply replace it with your favorite hot sauce in the queso recipe. Either way will be delicious.

Cajun Queso
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

For Isaac’s Pepper Paste of Pain:
1 quart fresh jalapeno or serrano peppers, or your favorite local hot pepper
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 quart white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Cajun Queso:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon saffron
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 pound lump crabmeat (or crawfish tails or chopped poached shrimp)
Crispy baguettes slices, for serving
Tortilla chips, for serving

Directions

1. Remove the stems from the pepper but leave the seeds. In the base of a food processor, pulse together the peppers and garlic until it looks like a relish.

2. In a 4-quart saucepan over high heat, bring the vinegar and salt to just to a boil.

3. Put the pepper-garlic mixture in a large nonreactive heatproof mixing bowl, and pour the hot vinegar on top.

4. Let cool to room temperature. It will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 6 weeks. Shake it up before you serve it.

5. Make the Cajun queso: In a large saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Cook, without allowing the butter to brown, until the milk solids are cooked out. Once the butter stops foaming, whisk in the flour. Cook on low heat about 1 minute, stirring once.

6. Add the wine and whisk continuously for about 30 seconds. Continuously whisking, add the milk in a thin stream. Once it all comes together, thickens slightly, and emulsifies, 3 to 5 minutes, stop stirring continuously but give it a good turn every minute, about 10 minutes more, until the mixture is smooth.

7. Add 1 teaspoon pepper paste (reserve the rest for another use), salt, white pepper, and saffron, and stir well. Bring it up to a bare simmer, whisking occasionally, to reach the consistency of fondue. If it gets too thick, add another splash of milk. Once the roux has cooked and there’s no floury taste, about 10 minutes, remove from the heat and stir in the cheese. Add the crabmeat (or seafood of your choice). Adjust salt to taste.

8. Serve with crispy baguettes or tortilla chips.

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