Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Melted Cheese Casserole with Mexican sausage and roasted chiles

In between all the BBQ action from over the holiday weekend, I have been pounding my fair share of Mexican food. One of my favorite dishes to order and to make at home is Melted Cheese Casserole with Mexican sausage and roasted chiles (in Spanish this translates to
Queso Fundido con chorizo y rajas)

Celebrity chef Rick Bayless specializes in Mexican food and he just so happens to be from Chicago. His restaurants, Frontera Grill and Tompolobampo, are always packed and quite tasty. Oh yeah, he's also a James Beard award winner...6 times over. Here's a recipe I found online created by the man himself.

The chorizo-poblano mixture can be made a day ahead, covered and refrigerated; warm it in your baking vessel before stirring in the cheese and baking. Queso fundido doesn't hold well, so don't put it in the oven until everyone is ready to make tacos.

Serves 6
2 fresh poblano chiles
4 ounces (1/2 cup) Mexican chorizo sausage, casing removed if there is one, store bought or homemade
1 medium white onion, sliced
12 corn tortillas, the fresher the better (store-bought are okay, though homemade will really shine here)
8 ounces Chihuahua or other Mexican melting cheese such as quesadilla or asadero (lacking Mexican cheese, queso fundido is delicious made with everything from Monterey jack to mild cheddar), shredded (you’ll have about 2 cups)
About a teaspoon or so of crumbled dried oregano, preferably Mexican

Roasting the poblano chiles. Roast the poblanos on an open flame or on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler, turning regularly until the skin is evenly blistered and blackened, about 5 minutes for an open flame, about 10 minutes for the broiler. Be careful not to char the flesh—only the skin. Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand for 5 minutes. Rub off the blackened skin, then pull or cut out the stems and the seed pods. Tear the chiles open and quickly rinse to remove stray seeds and most bits of skin. Cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips about 2 inches long.

The chorizo-poblano mixture. Heat the oven to 350-degrees. In a medium-size skillet (preferably non-stick), cook the chorizo over medium heat, stirring to break up any clumps, until half-cooked, about 5 minutes. (As the chorizo heats, it should render enough fat to cook the meat; if the mixture seems dry, add a little oil.) Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is richly golden and the chorizo done, about 10 minutes. (If the mixture looks very oily, drain.) Stir in the poblano strips, taste and season with salt if you think the mixture needs some. Transfer the mixture to a 9- or 10-inch shallow baking dish, Mexican cazuela or pie plate.

Finishing the queso fundido. Very lightly dampen a clean kitchen towel. Check the tortillas to make sure none are stuck together. Wrap them in the towel, then in foil, sealing the edges tightly. Place in the oven and set the timer for 7 minutes.

When the timer goes off, stir the cheese into the warm chorizo mixture. Set in the oven alongside the tortillas and bake until the cheese is just melted but has not begun to separate or look greasy, about 5 more minutes. Sprinkle with the crumbled oregano and serve without a moment's hesitation, accompanied by the warm tortillas.

Copyright 2000, Rick Bayless, Mexico One Plate At A Time, Scribner

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