Quesadillas–the perfect marriage of heaven and earth, where the basic, simple tortilla meets the ecstasy of cheese. If you can find the right cheese, that is… So, where do you find great Mexican cheeses in the US? If you can’t find Oaxaca Cheese or Manchego, what can you use instead? What about Monterey Jack or Cheddar as a substitute?
In this episode I interview the fabulous Joe Yonan (who just came out with an equally fabulous cookbook!), who gives us a lot of cheesy advise.
Would it shock you to know that you don’t technically need to stuff cheese inside for it to qualify as an authentic Mexican quesadilla?
Ham and Cheese Sincronizadas with Flour Tortillas
Sincronizadas de Jamon con Queso
12 flour tortillas
Safflower or corn oil, optional
½ lb Mexican manchego or Chihuahua cheese, monterey jack, muenster, or light cheddar grated
½ lb or about 6 to 12 slices ham or turkey
Avocado slices, optional
Salsa of your choice
Heat a sauté pan or a comal over medium heat. You may add a light coat of oil to the pan if desired. Top as many tortillas as will fit into the pan or comal with a generous amount of shredded cheese and a slice of ham or turkey. Cover with a second tortilla. Toast until the bottom tortillas begin to achieve a nice tan and some freckles and the cheese begins to melt. Flip over and toast the other side. I like to wait until the cheese oozes out and crisps a little! Transfer to a plate and slice in half or quarters.
Serve with a salsa of your choice and slices of ripe avocado on the side.
Oaxaca cheese is a mild tasting, gently salty, stringy white cheese with a deliciously chewy, full and filling bite. It is made in the same way as Mozzarella cheese. In fact, they taste very similar! Once the curds are formed, they are heated in water, stirred, and heated in water again. Throughout the process, as they are heated and stirred, they are made into very long threads that are pulled once and then again, until the desired consistency is achieved. Then the long threads are wrapped into balls.
In Mexico, and recently in some places abroad as well, you can find freshly made Oaxaca cheese, as it is usually found in small town and open air markets. You can also find commercially processed Oaxaca cheese in grocery stores, but the flavor and consistency changes considerably from the fresh ones.
Continue reading Oaxaca Cheese
Queso Fresco, which translates to Fresh Cheese, can be found throughout Mexico with slightly different variations. It is also called Queso de Pueblo, Queso de Rancho and sometimes just Queso Blanco. In some small towns it may be found sold wrapped in banana leaves and if you are lucky, in the small baskets where they are sometimes made.
It generally comes in rounds. Though it appears to be firm and can hold its shape nicely when cut into sticks or squares, it is very soft and crumbles easily. It is used in many ways, such as a side to guacamole and salsas, crumbled on top of hundreds of antojos like tacos, tostadas, enchiladas, refried beans and even soups. I also love it diced or crumbled in salads. Possibilities are endless.
Continue reading Queso Fresco
Some people get motion sickness when they travel. Some people get hungry. I am among the latter.
The minute I step on whatever will transport me from one place to another, my mind swims through related food memories… and I just have to eat. So since I know I will have a craving for something other than a moist, soggy, chewy and never-ever crunchy baguette from the Amtrak train, and after being so spoiled with the food from El Chepe Train, I am packing my own Torta.
Torta (according to me…): A satisfying and delicious, self contained, easy to transport, edible package filled with tasty ingredients that just love to schmooze together.
Continue reading I am packing my own Torta…