Food & Drink

Cajun Queso

Serves 6 to 8

Melty cheese dip amped up, Louisiana style

“I know people who say you shouldn’t mix cheese and seafood,” says  chef Isaac Toups, owner of Toups’ Meatery and Toups’ South and whose new book, Chasing the Gator, comes out this month. “I say, screw those rules. I refuse to live in a fascist culinary world. Those people have clearly never had Parmesan atop broiled oysters. They’ve also clearly never had my fondue.”

“This is not a fondue in the traditional sense,” he says. “Normally you’d warm up your cheese and wine and whiskey and dust in a little flour. Instead, this is a béchamel sauce with all the components of fondue, just combined in a different order.”


    • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter

    • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

    • ¼ cup dry white wine

    • 2 cups whole milk

    • 1 teaspoon hot sauce

    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

    • ¼ teaspoon white pepper

    • ¼ teaspoon saffron

    • 1 cup grated Gruyère

    • 1 pound lump crabmeat (or crawfish tails or chopped poached shrimp)

    • Baguette, crudités, or tortilla chips, for serving


  1. Note: “I use Gruyère for the cheese here, but even mozzarella would work, or cheddar,” says Toups. “A cup of Velveeta would be fine. Or a packet of pre-shredded Colby. That’s what we might have at fish camp. If you want to go high-end, use a super-funky Époisses and serve alongside some beef skewers.”

  2. Melt the butter on low in a large saucepan. Cook, without allowing the butter to brown, until the milk solids are cooked out. Once the butter stops foaming, whisk in the flour. Cook on low heat about a minute, stirring once. You’re taking a white roux to blonde, and it’ll happen pretty quick.

  3. Add the wine and stir continuously for about 30 seconds. Still stirring constantly with the whisk, add the milk in a thin stream. If you walk away for even a second, you will get lumpy béchamel and no one will be impressed with your cooking. Once it all comes together, thickens slightly, and emulsifies (about 3 to 5 minutes), it’s okay to stop stirring continuously, but give it a good turn every minute from here on out, about 10 minutes more, until the mixture is smooth.

  4. Add the hot sauce, salt, white pepper, and saffron and stir well. Bring it up to a bare simmer, stirring with the whisk occasionally. Consistency should be that of, well, fondue. If it gets too thick, you can add another little splash of milk. Once the roux has cooked and there’s no floury taste, about 10 minutes, remove from heat and stir in the cheese. Add the crabmeat (or other seafood of your choice). Adjust salt to taste.

  5. Serve with sides of crusty baguette or crudités. Or with tortilla or corn chips like queso.

Excerpted from CHASING THE GATOR Copyright © 2018 by Isaac Toups. Used with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York.  All rights reserved.