Everyone and their cousin make some form of Velveeta and Rotel. It’s delicious, but it’s not the smooth subtle goodness you’re served at Mexican Restaurants. One of my earliest frustrations as a young cook, was trying to recreate queso blanco. Even with the internet booming in the early 2000s, there was little information on how to make the stuff. So, with no clue where to begin I went to the source. After “speaking” with numerous staff from numerous Mexican Restaurants, I realized three things. 1) I’m an idiot who needs to learn a foreign language. 2) Some sort of white cheese is used for queso blanco. 3) I was going to have to figure this out myself.
The next few months I failed over and over again. My first attempt was simply to melt a block of white cheddar in a sauce pan. This resulted in a rubbery oily glob that triggered the first of many tears. Cheese is basically fat and water interlocked with protein. When you melt cheese the protein gets unbundled and the oil, AKA fat, and water become fluid. We’ve all heard that oil and water don’t mix. Once the protein matrix deteriorates, fat and water tend to separate. The trick to fighting this is to form an emulsion. There are a few classic techniques to achieve this. Fondue, AKA the Henry Winkler Haircut, is “everyone’s” favorite 70’s food trend. Acidic wine plays a supporting role, not just adding flavor, but helping maintain an emulsion. French chefs use a roux, starch and fat cooked together, to achieve the same effect. Feel free to take either of these paths toward tip-top dip, but consider the following technique, as well.
Sodium Citrate is grate!
alarmist websites are cool with the stuff. So don’t sweat it. You’ll also finally be able to make ridiculously delicious queso blanco at home.
The recipe is based on this one, from the folks over at Modernist Cuisine. You can find sodium citrate sometimes in Kosher Grocery stores labeled Sour Salt, but check the ingredients, as there are different varieties. I bought mine through Amazon. It’s cheap and will last you forever. This recipe will work with nearly any kind of cheese, but you may have to adjust the water % based on the cheese moisture content. You’ll have to experiment. I provide percentages so you can scale this recipe.
8oz Pepper Jack Cheese (I like Boar’s Head) [100%]
7oz (3/4 cup + 1/8 cup ) cold water or wheat beer [88%]
9 grams Sodium Citrate (about 2 and a half teaspoons) [4%]
Shred Cheese and set aside.
Combine water and sodium citrate in a medium sauce pan. Whisk until dissolved.
Heat sauce pan over medium heat until water simmers.
Add cheese a handful at a time while continually whisking.
Continue to slowly add cheese allowing the water to come back to simmer occasionally.
Once all the cheese is incorporated pour into a bowl and enjoy.
This technique is pretty killer. It’s allowed me to recreate queso blanco for the first time. If that’s not reason enough to buy sodium citrate, think of the creamy mac ‘n cheese you could knock out. Melted cheddar over broccoli? Get some!
Oh, and if you’re a little more ambitious, fry up your own tortilla chips. Makes a huge difference.
Until next time,
Dinner & a Movie
Bringing you food and drinks so that you can make movie night that much more delicious.
"Food is essential for life; therefore make it good"
Shannon does it Julie & Julia style as she cooks through a cookbook and shares thoughts and recipes along the way.