Queso Sauce and Cheesy Goodbyes

This week, my lovely and amazing friend Steph (I’m trying very hard not to turn into Leslie Knope here) is moving across the pond. That’s us there in the picture laughing away, no doubt over something very silly. It’s all a big tangle of confusing emotions: absolute delight for her and the wonderful dude she’s going to marry in a few weeks’ time, and excitement for the big trip over there for the wedding, but also much sadness and nostalgia. (“It’s the end of an era!”) It crept around much more quickly than we were expecting – it feels like they only got engaged a minute ago, and all of a sudden we’re standing on the precipice of emigrations and crazy hen weekends. (Vegas baby.) We’ve spent the last few months making plans, all of which seem to revolve around food (“We should throw a Brazilian-themed dinner party!” “We should spend a whole day making sushi!”), and suddenly we’re out of time for all but a few.

We did manage to find time for dinner in a tiny Italian restaurant in Dublin. We’d been eyeing it up for months, staring at online reviews and drooling, and we were not disappointed. Not only was I reunited with lardo di Colonnata, that intensely sexy, mouth-wateringly beaut that is cured pork fat, but I also got to sink my face into a ball of burrata. O burrata, how I love thee. (For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of meeting this particular earthly joy, burrata is made by mixing a little mozzarella with some fresh cream, and stuffing that mixture into the middle of a ball of mozzarella. Later, when you cut into the cheese, the soft, creamy filling oozes seductively over the plate, and the world falls away, and you know what love really is. Or something that sounds a little less insane.)

The days following that dinner have involved much mooning around and comfort-eating. I’m going to miss Steph for all sorts of reasons, one of which is that she is hands-down my foodiest friend, and much of our time together has been spent talking about cheese, eating cheese and making cheese-related treats. Her visit to me in Italy included an obscene amount of pizza, and I could not begin to count the number of girls’ nights that have been focused around cheeseboards or baked Camemberts – even our Polish-themed dinner included cheesy pierogi. This week we’ve been debating what cheeses to include in her awesome wedding “cake” composed entirely of wheels of cheese (seriously, I love this girl.) And as assistant manager of a kickass burrito bar in Dublin, Steph also introduced me to the glory that is queso sauce, and accordingly I will forever be in her debt.

Queso sauce is ridiculous. It’s like most of my favourite Mexican flavours hopped into a pot of fondue like it was a hot tub. It’s like there’s a party in my mouth and no-one’s invited because I don’t want to have to share the queso sauce with stupid party guests. It’s like, whoa, hold up, we just ate two blocks of Cheddar in an hour and I will never be able to get off this couch again. It’s like my friend Niamh said during an afternoon of cold beers, much queso sauce and a particularly thrilling game of rugby, “Oh god! All this cheese and adrenaline is not helping my heart right now!” (Incidentally, Niamh is a nurse, which makes this a tad worrying.)

There are countless recipes for queso sauce online, and I want to keep trying all of them until I feel like I’ve found the definitive one, and then continue to make many, many pots of that one on a regular basis for the rest of my life. In the meantime, here’s the recipe for the one I made a few weeks ago for that indulgent, heart-threatening afternoon of rugby and beers. It was so good that I became mildly concerned Niamh was about to propose. Or die.

Queso Sauce

First grab these:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ½ a chopped onion
  • 3 chillies, seeds and stems removed, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 240ml whole milk
  • Handful of chopped coriander
  • 400g tinned diced tomatoes, drained
  • 600g cheese, grated (I used Irish Cheddar, but I’m gonna mix it up next time and use something different)
  • 115g sour cream

Now do this:

1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and chillies and cook for about five minutes, or until the onions have softened. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.

2. Whisk the flour into the pan and cook for about 30 seconds. Slowly pour the milk into the pan while whisking, and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens, about three minutes. Stir in the coriander and tomatoes.

3. Reduce the heat to low, and add the grated cheeses a small handful at a time, stirring after each addition until it’s all completely melted. Repeat until all of the cheese has been added and the mixture is so gooey you want to put your face in the pot. Stir in the sour cream until it’s completely combined and then serve immediately with many tortilla chips and cold beers. Leftovers (if you have any!) can be refrigerated for up to five days and then reheated when you’re ready to chow down.

Steph my love – I am super excited and so so delighted for you. See you in Vegas lady. x

What are your favourite cheesy treats? Do you have experience in long-distance friendships, or a recipe for queso sauce that I need to try? I’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment below.

[Images property of Jocelyn Doyle; images 2 and 3 courtesy of Shutterstock.]