A cozy meal in the Swiss Alps takes islander back to a Texas tradition
On a recent trip to Switzerland, my husband and I popped into a small chalet that was the town’s only pub. We sat in a snuggly booth filled with cozy sheepskin throws and dreamily admired the alps through the window. With pints of local Pilsner, we placed the quintessential order: a traditional pot of fondue.
In mountain towns across Europe, fondue is considered a legitimate meal. Hunks of fresh bread, cut fruit and vegetables accompany the bubbling cauldron. As we enjoyed the ritual of swishing our skewered bread through the hot cheese, I was struck by a Texas-sized sense of déjà vu — queso.
At any party, the bowl of queso is an organic gathering spot. The dance of arms reaching to dip naturally leads to conversation and camaraderie, as with queso’s Swiss cousin. But unlike in the alps, inhaling an entire pot of queso here at home might be frowned upon. Life can be so unfair.
Shrimp Queso with Green Salsa
For the salsa:
½ pound tomatillos, husks removed
¼ medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced
2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
2 jalapeños, cut in half and seeded
For the queso:
1 pound Monterey Jack, shredded, see note
1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice from ½ a lime
Pinch of cayenne
Warm tortilla chips, for serving
In a mixing bowl, toss the shrimp with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper and cayenne. Set aside.
Meanwhile, make the salsa by placing the tomatillos, onion, garlic and jalapeños in a medium pot. Cover with water and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.
After the salsa has cooled, use a slotted spoon to transfer the mixture to a blender or a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Add salt to taste.
Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil to the same pan and heat over medium-low. Add the marinated shrimp and minced garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are pink. Take off the heat and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a medium-sized, ovenproof skillet (cast iron works really well) and sprinkle in the shredded cheese. Place the skillet in the oven and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 10-15 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the oven. Spoon the shrimp and salsa over the melted cheese and serve immediately with warm tortilla chips.
If the queso resolidifies, pop it back in the oven for an additional 5 minutes.
Note: Whenever possible, buy block cheese and shred it yourself. Pre-shredded cheese, while convenient, often is treated with products to prevent clumping. These non-clumping additives can inhibit the cheese from melting into a smooth consistency. And nobody