I know that somewhere in my head there are eloquent words to describe my love of queso flameado, but right now I’m just too tuckered out from work to find them. Yes, I am very fortunate to have a job—I’m not complaining. But perhaps I’d find my staid desk job a bit more invigorating if there was an element of risk involved.
Take my stint as a Mexican restaurant waitress during college. Sure, I worked there mainly for the endless baskets of chips and salsa and after-work margaritas, but I have to admit the occasional opportunity to serve queso flameado had its appeal as well.
Queso flameado, which you might know as queso fundido, is a bubbling dish of melted white cheese, such as Monterey Jack or asadero, that’s mixed with chiles and often chunks of chorizo or strips of fajita meat as well. Unlike its cheesy cousin chile con queso, queso flameado is rich and thick, which makes it awkward for chips but perfect for spooning into a soft, warm tortilla.
The name translates to flaming cheese, though it’s not necessary to set it on fire for the dish to be successful. But try explaining that to the restaurant I worked at in college, which decided that if a customer was going to request something called flaming cheese, well, that was exactly what they’d get.
Whenever someone ordered queso flameado, we servers would jump over the prospect of danger, which definitely made our jobs a bit more thrilling. To create the spectacle, we’d sprinkle Everclear over the already cooked dish and then carry it out to the table. Upon arrival, we’d strike a match and wave it over the queso flameado, which being soaked in high-proof alcohol and all, would light up with blue flames that danced across the cheese making it bubble and hiss. When the inferno had died down, with two spoons we’d place the melted cheese into tortillas, and roll them into soft tacos. It was a fine presentation and one that made the table feel special.
I wish I could say that I set my shirt on fire or that I was such a queso flameado master that people would drive miles to see me set cheese aflame before deftly rolling it into tacos. That would certainly make for a better story, but that didn’t happen. Nope, I simply served people their queso flameado, a dish that made them very, very happy. And sometimes creating happiness is the biggest thrill of all.
So on those nights when you’re too tired to cook something fancy, queso flameado is a wonderful dish. You just throw some cheese, roasted poblanos and cooked chorizo into a skillet, heat it up for a few minutes and you have an oozing, satisfying snack or dinner. And sure, if you’re feeling wild you can douse it in alcohol and set it on fire, though that’s not necessary for enjoyment. But don’t worry; even if you skip that dramatic step know that this simple dish will still bring smiles and maybe even applause.
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- 1 poblano chile
- 1/4 pound Mexican chorizo, removed from casing
- 3 cups shredded asadero cheese
- 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack
- Warm corn and/or flour tortillas, for serving
- Heat the poblano chile under the broiler for 5 minutes on each side or until it's blackened. Place the chile in a paper sack, close it and let the chile steam for 15 minutes. After this time, rub off the skin, remove the stem and seeds and cut into strips.
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Break up the chorizo and cook it in a medium-sized cast-iron skillet until it’s done, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. Drain the excess grease, then top the chorizo with the cheese and poblano strips. Place in the oven and and cook for 15 minutes uncovered or until the cheese is bubbling.
- Spoon out the melted queso flameado onto tortillas. Serve immediately.
Oh my gosh! I just asked a question on one of your recent recipes, saw this linked from it and rapid fired over to see if it’s what I’ve been searching for years to make! Your description of working in a restaurant where they poured everclear, lit it, then rolled it in a tortilla made my hair catch on fire! Yes! I am one of those freaks who used to drive 65 miles to get my Queso Flameado fix, along with their rice, I was addicted to them. Sadly, that place has closed, and I haven’t been able to find another within 200 miles. It seems as if I can visualize you standing at the table, lighting it up at the much missed Cozymels. And, their tortillas, oh my, I would drive 300 miles. I don’t remember chorizo being in theirs, but I’m going to the store right now and giving yours a try this afternoon!
PS…. at Cozymels, they had a pesto kind of sauce on top with cilantro that they would stir in after burning. I’m going to search through your recipes and see if I can find something similar and may add a little to your recipe.
Susie–That sounds delicious! I haven’t posted a cilantro pesto on the site but there’s one in my first cookbook.
Susie–You’re welcome! I’m delighted the post brought back such fun memories for you!
I wish I could find this dish. I really miss it El Chico use to make it and they have long stop. Will try in the backyard first unlesss you know of a new place marking it 😊
Misha–While it’s a challenge to find it flaming these days, plenty of spots offer queso fundido, which is essentially the same thing without the dramatic fire.
This recipe reminds me of how I miss Austin. Queso Flameado con Rajas (or Queso Fundido con Rajas–same thing, I think) was always our favorite starter. Depending on the restaurant, it was sometimes all or part mild cheddar, but more often jack or a delicious Mexican white cheese. The rajas included both roasted poblano strips and grilled or roasted strips of onion. I NEVER saw it flamed at the table. We usually skipped the chorizo and enjoyed it with just the pepper and onion. Always with fresh corn tortillas–there is something warm and miraculous about corn tortillas with chilis and cheese. I save the flour tortillas for quesadillas or scooping up beans.
Janet–Pepper and onion is also wonderful with the melted cheese, and it’s funny that I’ve never served it with corn tortillas but I agree those flavor combinations are indeed warm and miraculous.
Great post, great ideas in the comments. We use to go to an amazing mexican restaurant in the suburbs of Chicago that served this table side. One night the server decided to squirt some more everclear on the already flaming cheese and the flame traveled back up up the liquid stream and the bottle exploded right next to our table. Thankfully nobody was hurt! … but here’s a tip. Don’t squirt everclear into an already lit cheese bowl or it will be 4th of July quickly …. Oh that was quite a night. I think our flameado was free that night due to the extra flames.
Tucker–What an experience! I’m also glad no one was hurt–thank you for the tip!
Pappacitos makes it, they have a few locations here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. They light it on fire at tableside. Served with warm flour tortillas, so delish. Made some today at home for my son.