Making a “sofrito” of sorts with blistered chile peppers and cherry tomatoes, fresh cilantro, and Taco Secret, our go-to Mexi-Spice, creates a queso with more punch and character than most. You can stir together the creamy elements over indirect heat, so make sure you have plenty of chips and cold beverages at the ready--because this party might not leave the grill.
Charred Chile Queso with Taco Secret
Serves 6 to 8
2 serranos or jalapenos
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
Vegetable oil, for drizzling
¾ cup lightly chopped cilantro (leaves and tender stems)
1 tablespoon Taco Secret
1 pound shredded “Mexican mix” or Jack cheese
1 pound American cheese, cut into cubes
½ cup Mexican Crema or sour cream
4 Scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
Tortilla chips, for serving
Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium-high fire. Clean and oil the cooking grates, and then preheat a grill basket for 10 minutes over direct heat.
While the grill heats, combine the chile peppers and tomatoes in a bowl, drizzle with enough vegetable oil to lightly coat, and toss to combine. When you’re ready to grill, pour the vegetables into the preheated grill basket (they’ll begin sizzling immediately) and cook, shaking and rotating the basket as needed for even cooking, until they’re charred and blistered on a few sides. This process shouldn’t take more than 3-4 minutes.
To preserve the fire, close the grill and open the vents while you prepare the queso.
Transfer the charred vegetables back into the mixing bowl. When they’re cool enough to handle, stem and seed the chiles and slice into rounds. Combine the chiles, tomatoes, cilantro and Taco Secret in the bowl of a food processor and pulse into a coarse puree (the mixture should be evenly combined, but still have a little texture).
Transfer the tomato mixture to a heavy saucepan and place the saucepan over direct heat. Cook the mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it comes to a lively simmer and the Taco Secret seasoning becomes very fragrant. Transfer the saucepan to indirect heat and add the cheese. As the cheese begins to melt, gently stir the mixture to combine. When the cheese is more than halfway melted, pour in the crema and continue to stir. You can speed this process up by closing the grill in between stirring, or moving the pot to direct heat for a minute or two, just be careful not to scorch the bottom layer of cheese.
When the mixture is completely smooth, garnish with the sliced scallions and serve immediately, with plenty of chips.