El Restaurante Mexicano July/August 2011 : Page 8

cover story AUTHENTIC HISPANIC CHEESES GAIN FAVOR WITH CUSTOMERS cooking with queso and Oaxaca—help Smedstad deliver those authentic market fl avors to his customers. “The Oaxacan cheese is made and stretched in house,” says Smedstad, who uses Mexican cheeses to enhance dishes including the Smoked Chicken Enchi-ladas; quesadillas; the signature Tomato Salad (toma-toes, homemade queso Oaxaca, diced onion, cilantro, radishes, pickled jalapeños, olive oil and cider vinegar); and the namesake Elote appetizer (fi re-roasted corn accented with spicy mayo, lime and cotija cheese); and the Chile Relleno (fi re-roasted Poblano chile, vegeta-ble picadillo, local Arizona goat cheese and homemade queso Oaxaca). In San Diego, Hispanic cheeses add authenticity to the menu at El Agave Restaurant and Tequileria, a restaurant that specializes in “Mexican Nouvelle Cuisine.” Since its 1996 debut, the restaurant has been “dedicated 100 percent to the enhancement of Hispanic-Mexican gastronomy,” according to Owner J.C. Gómez. Cooking with Mexican cheeses is one important step Gomez and his staff take to make sure they live up to that motto. “We use manchego made in Mexico the most. It is similar to Oaxacan cheese,” Manager Alberto Mondragon says. Quesadillas with manchego, tlacoyos cuitlacoche BY KATHLEEN FURORE D emand for traditional Hispanic ingredients continues to grow, and the cheese segment is no exception. Consumers are looking for authentic fl avors that go beyond pepper jack, and are turning to Hispanic-style cheeses like Queso Fresco, Queso Blanco, Añejo En-chilado and Oaxaca, says Marilyn Wilkinson, director, National Product Communications for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB), a dairy farmer-funded organization headquartered in Madison, Wisc. “The awareness of these cheeses in the broader population has also ignited a desire for their versatil-ity, unique fl avors and convenience far beyond the traditional Hispanic niche. One major asset of the cheeses is their mild fl avors, which complement rather than compete with bolder fl avors used in many Latino dishes,” Wilkinson notes. Savvy chefs are giving restaurant patrons what they’re looking for by menuing dishes that feature authentic quesos. Cheesy Restaurant Dishes At Elote Café in Sedona, Ariz., Chef Jeff Smedstad prepares cuisine inspired by the markets of Mexico. Three types of Mexican cheese—cotija, queso fresco 8 el restaurante mexicano

Cover Story: Cooking With Queso

Kathleen Furore

Demand for traditional Hispanic ingredients continues to grow, and the cheese segment is no exception. Consumers are looking for authentic fl avors that go beyond pepper jack, and are turning to Hispanic-style cheeses like Queso Fresco, Queso Blanco, Añejo Enchilado and Oaxaca, says Marilyn Wilkinson, director, National Product Communications for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB), a dairy farmerfunded organization headquartered in Madison, Wisc.<br /> <br /> “The awareness of these cheeses in the broader population has also ignited a desire for their versatility, unique fl avors and convenience far beyond the traditional Hispanic niche. One major asset of the cheeses is their mild fl avors, which complement rather than compete with bolder fl avors used in many Latino dishes,” Wilkinson notes.<br /> <br /> Savvy chefs are giving restaurant patrons what they’re looking for by menuing dishes that feature authentic quesos.<br /> <br /> Cheesy Restaurant Dishes<br /> <br /> At Elote Café in Sedona, Ariz., Chef Jeff Smedstad prepares cuisine inspired by the markets of Mexico. Three types of Mexican cheese—cotija, queso fresco And Oaxaca—help Smedstad deliver those authentic market fl avors to his customers.<br /> <br /> “The Oaxacan cheese is made and stretched in house,” says Smedstad, who uses Mexican cheeses to enhance dishes including the Smoked Chicken Enchiladas; quesadillas; the signature Tomato Salad (tomatoes, homemade queso Oaxaca, diced onion, cilantro, radishes, pickled jalapeños, olive oil and cider vinegar); and the namesake Elote appetizer (fi re-roasted corn accented with spicy mayo, lime and cotija cheese); and the Chile Relleno (fi re-roasted Poblano chile, vegetable picadillo, local Arizona goat cheese and homemade queso Oaxaca).<br /> <br /> In San Diego, Hispanic cheeses add authenticity to the menu at El Agave Restaurant and Tequileria, a restaurant that specializes in “Mexican Nouvelle Cuisine.” Since its 1996 debut, the restaurant has been “dedicated 100 percent to the enhancement of Hispanic-Mexican gastronomy,” according to Owner<br /> J. C. Gómez.<br /> <br /> Cooking with Mexican cheeses is one important step Gomez and his staff take to make sure they live up to that motto. “We use manchego made in Mexico the most. It is similar to Oaxacan cheese,” Manager Alberto Mondragon says.<br /> <br /> Quesadillas with manchego, tlacoyos cuitlacoche With queso fresco and sopesitos (a serving of three small sopes –one filled with chorizo, one with chicken and one with shrimp and all topped with crumbled queso fresco) are some of the most popular El Agave dishes made with Hispanic quesos.<br /> <br /> “It is worth the extra money in some cases to use the authentic cheeses,” Mondragon says, noting they are used predominantly as garnishes at El Agave. “Most of our customers expect to find the true flavors of Mexico here.”<br /> <br /> Hispanic cheeses, he says, help the restaurant meet those expectations. Other examples of queso-accented cuisine (discovered in online menus): Minguichi, the original Michoacan chile con queso made with cotija cheese, jalapeños and served with housemade gorditas at Casa Vieja Restaurant in Corrales, N. M. and the Cuña (iceberg wedge, Mexican chorizo crumble, roasted tomato, red onion, queso añejo cream dressing); Añejo Nachos (fried corn tortillas layered with pico de gallo, homemade refried beans, cheddar jack One major asset of the cheeses is their mild fl avors, which complement rather than compete with bolder fl avors used in many Latino dishes. Cheese, pickled jalapeño, avocado, lettuce, cilantro, queso añejo and picante crema); and Huevos Rancheros (two eggs any style over homemade corn tortillas with pinto beans, salsa ranchero and cotija cheese) at Añejo Mexican Bistro and Tequila Bistro in Falmouth, Mass.<br /> <br /> Understanding Hispanic cheeses and how they can add unique fl avor to your appetizers, salads and entrees will help you turn common cheesy offerings into truly authentic dishes customers will crave. “Get to know authentic Mexican cheeses fi rsthand. Travel to the country and eat it for yourself, and discover the true authentic fl avors of each cheese. This will help you select the best distributor for Mexican cheeses,” Smedstad concludes.<br /> <br /> Hispanic-style cheeses fall into two general categories: fresh and aged. The California Milk Advisory Board offers this guide to help you navigate your way through the maze of Hispanic quesos.<br /> <br /> FRESH UNRIPENED CHEESES<br /> <br /> .. Queso Fresco — The most popular Hispanic-style cheese. Soft and moist with a mild saltiness and slight acidity similar to farmers cheese. It crumbles easily and does not melt. Often used as a topping or filling in cooked dishes. Queso fresco may be called adobera when sold in large pieces.<br /> <br /> ..Queso Blanco Fresco — Also called queso para freir (cheese for frying). This is a firm, moist cheese used in cooked dishes. It is often fried because it holds its shape under heat. It is also crumbled onto fruit, beans, salads and other dishes.<br /> <br /> ..Panela — Mild and moist with a sweet, fresh milk flavor. Firm texture similar to fresh (or high-moisture) mozzarella. Does not melt, so it is often used in cooked foods. It is also used in sandwiches, salads and with fruit.<br /> <br /> ..Queso Blanco — A white, mild, creamy cheese similar to a mild cheddar or Jack, and used in much the same way. It also melts like those cheeses.<br /> <br /> .. Oaxaca— A mild, firm white cheese with a sweet milk flavor and slight saltiness. Appearance is similar to mozzarella. It looks like a braided or rolled ball. Similar to string cheese; use as you would a low-moisture mozzarella. This cheese melts well and is often shredded into main dishes prior to cooking.<br /> <br /> .. Requeson— Similar to ricotta; made from whey. Soft, grainy texture and fresh milk taste. Used in salads, spreads, and fillings in cooked foods and desserts.<br /> <br /> AGED CHEESES<br /> <br /> .. Asadero— A mild, firm cheese molded into a log and sold sliced, it is similar to provolone in its slightly tangy taste and firm texture.It melts well and is used in such dishes as quesadillas and nachos as well as on hamburgers and sandwiches.<br /> <br /> .. Cotija..— This firm, very salty cheese is similar to a dry feta. Moisture content will vary by manufacturer, ranging from semi-firm to very firm, although all versions are quite crumbly. It can be used in cooked foods, especially crumbled and sprinkled like a condiment over soups, salads and beans.<br /> <br /> .. Cotija anejo— A version of Cotija that has been aged longer. Some manufacturers call it queso añejo, or simply, añejo. As the name implies, it is and dry, and is a mainstay of Mexican cooking, often crumbled over dishes. It has a salty flavor and can be grated or crumbled and used like parmesan or dry Jack on salads and cooked foods.<br /> <br /> .. Enchilado— Also called enchilado añejo, this dry, crumbly white cheese is similar to Cotija añejo but distinguished by its reddish appearance, the result of a mild red chile or paprika Coating which adds a slightly spicy flavor. Crumble or slice onto Mexican foods, soups and salads. In cooked dishes, it softens but does not melt.<br /> <br /> .. Menonita— A mild, smooth white cheese that originated in the Mennonite community in Chihuahua, Mexico. Menonita is similar in flavor and uses to gouda. It is a good table cheese and can also be used just like gouda in recipes.<br /> <br /> ..Manchefo — Derived from the famous cheese of La Mancha, Spain, where it is traditionally made from sheep’s milk, the California version is made from part-skim cow’s milk. This firm, golden cheese has a mellow flavor similar to a slightly aged Jack, but more nutty. It is used as a snacking and sandwich cheese, and as an accompaniment to fruit and wine. It also melts well in cooking.

Previous Page  Next Page


Publication List
 

Loading