It’s not every day that the fabulous celebrity chef Rick Bayless cooks for you. So I enjoyed every minute of it. I was fortunate to attend an event that included a private cooking demonstration by Rick, along with a team-building, make-your-own margarita relay race. Quite fun! The event was held in an office space-test kitchen area that’s above his restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.
Rick made Wild Mushroom Queso Fundido, which I thought would make an ideal appetizer for Super Bowl parties. You can serve the cheesy dip with warm tortillas to make soft tacos, or simply pass around tortilla chips for dipping.
I liked his idea of using dried porcini mushrooms, which are just a fraction of the price of fresh wild mushrooms. Rick also used sun-dried tomatoes in this version instead of fresh tomatoes — which he said he often does in the winter months. The dried mushrooms and tomatoes were rehydrated and the liquid drained before adding to a saute pan along with the chopped onion and serrano chiles.
After the vegetables are cooked, beer is added to the mixture and then cheese is sprinkled over the vegetables and stirred until melted. Rick used Chihuanhua cheese in this version, but you can use any other Mexican melting cheese like quesadilla or substitute Monterey Jack cheese instead.
Wild Mushroom Queso Fundido
I found this Rick Bayless recipe from Season 6 of Mexico – One Plate at a Time, and noted the changes Rick made to the version he cooked for us.
3/4 ounce (about 1/2 cup) dried porcini (or other wild) mushrooms
Hot green chiles to taste (roughly 1 large jalapeno or 2 serranos, stemmed [Rick used 2 serranos in his version, stems left intact for the heat]
1 medium white onion
1 large ripe tomato [Rick substituted sun-dried tomatoes]
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons beer, preferably a full-flavored beer like Mexico’s Bohemia
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded, about 2 cups [Rick used Chihuahua cheese]
About a dozen warm corn or flour tortillas [Rick used mini homemade flour tortillas]
1. Rehydrate the mushrooms. Scoop the mushrooms into a small bowl, cover with boiling water, weight with a plate to keep the mushrooms submerged and let rehydrate for 20 minutes. Drain off the liquid, pressing on the mushrooms to remove all the water. Chop into 1/4-inch pieces.
2. Prepare the flavorings. Finely chop the chiles (seed them first, if you wish), then chop the onion and tomato into 1/4-inch pieces. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chiles, onion, tomato and mushrooms and cook, stirring nearly constantly, until the onion begins to soften and brown, 7 or 8 minutes. Add the beer and stir until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is once again dry looking.
3. Finish the queso fundido. Reduce the heat to medium-low, sprinkle the cheese evenly over the vegetables and stir slowly and constantly until just melted — too long over the heat and the cheese will become tough oil and stringy. Immediately scoop into a warm serving dish (a small fondue dish with a tea light below is ideal) and serve with warm tortillas for making soft tacos.