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Archive for Cinco de Mayo-Dia De Los Muertos

RECIPE: Skillet Cornbread

Skillet Cornbread Recipe

New England Open House Cookbook

Corn Bread Squares

[1] The earliest cornbread was made in a skillet: Rectangular baking pans were not yet in use. This recipe is courtesy [2] the New England Open House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase. [3] Corn pone, also called hoe cakes and johnny cakes, was the immigrant European’s version of the Native American cornmeal flatbread. [4] Today cornbread is most often cooked in a rectangular pan, like this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

 

Serve this skillet cornbread for breakfast with eggs.

Or serve it for lunch with a bowl of hearty soup and/or a salad.

The recipe is from the New England Open House Cookbook via Vermont Creamery, which used its exquisite cultured butter and crème fraîche. Chopped scallions create a piquant counterpoint to the rich dairy.

The garnish is optional, but adds excitement to an already yummy dish. Crème fraîche or sour cream, plus fresh chopped scallions, are a delightful finish.

We have three more cornbread recipes for your perusal:

  • Buffalo Chicken Cornbread With Blue Cheese Salad
  • Queso Fresco & Scallion Cornbread
  • Marcus Samuelsson’s Jalapeño Cornbread (video recipe)
  •  
    RECIPE: SKILLET CORNBREAD

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup buttermilk (you can make your own—see footnote*)
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup fresh corn, cut from the cob
  • Optional: 1-2 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • Optional: 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh jalapeños, mixed red and green, or to taste
  •  
    For The Garnish

  • 8 ounces crème fraîche (you can make your own) (substitute sour cream)
  • 2-3 scallions or fresh herbs (basil, chives, cilantro, parsley, sage, thyme), chopped
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Mix together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.

    2. WHISK together in another bowl the milk, buttermilk and eggs. Pour in the melted butter and stir well. Add these wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir till combined. Gently fold in the corn kernels.

    3. POUR into the prepared cast iron skillet. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until done.

    4. TO SERVE: Top with crème fraîche and a sprinkle of scallions.
     
    ________________
    *To make buttermilk, just add a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar to a cup measure and add enough milk to make an even cup. Let stand five minutes.

     
    THE HISTORY OF CORNBREAD

    Corn, which originated in what today is Mexico, was turned into flatbread–the tortilla—in its native land. Leavened breads were not indigenous, and the concept of raised bread wasn’t known until the arrival of the Spanish.

    As corn spread from Mexico northward, it was cultivated by Native Americans across the southern region of what is now the United States. When European settlers arrived, they learned to cultivate and cook corn from the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek.

    The North American natives had also learned to make another unleavened cornbread, in the form of flat oval cakes or loaves. Mixing cornmeal and water, they cooked the batter in hot ashes.

    The Europeans called it cornpone, or pone. Pone is a shortened version of the Virginia Algonquian word for bread, appone; although pone is fried cooked gruel rather than flatbread (the fine points can be argued, but not here and now).

     

    The immigrant Europeans added some salt and fried the mixture in lard in their skillets. Skillet breads, pies, etc. date back generations before people had home ovens, much less baking pans. Everything was cooked over a fire in a cast iron pot or a skillet; or in some towns, in a central community oven.

    In parts of England, hoe was a colloquial term for griddle. The tale that hoe cakes were cooked by field workers on their hoes over a fire is a story perpetuated but not substantiated.

    The fried corn batter is also known as hoe cakes and johnnycakes. Today, outside the South, we call them corn pancakes.

    Here’s a recipe for hoecakes and for johnnycakes; the photos are below.
     
    Johnnycake is similar, The modern johnnycake is found in the cuisine of New England, A modern johnnycake is fried cornmeal gruel, which is made from yellow or white cornmeal mixed with salt and hot water or milk, and sometimes sweetened

    The immigrants adapted cornmeal to their European recipes: bread loaves and muffins, corncakes, fritters, hoecakes and pancakes, liquor, porridge and so on. Most people had little cooking equipment. The skillet served multiple purposes, from frying to baking.

    Cornbread became popular as the main ingredient for a dressing or stuffing with fowl (the difference: stuffing is cooked inside the bird; dressing is cooked in a separate pan).
     
    What Is Cornmeal?

    Cornmeal is produced by grinding dried raw corn grains. The finest grind is used for baking, a medium grind for porridge and polenta, and a coarse grind for grits. Raw corn kernels spoked in hot water and an alkaline mineral like calcium hydroxide is called hominy (pozole in Spanish) and ground and mixed into masa harina, the dough used to make tamales and tortillas.

    Cornbread can be baked or fried, even steamed. Steamed cornbread is more like cornmeal pudding or mush, moist and chewier than a traditional bread. Here’s more on the evolution of cornbread plus early cornbread recipes.

    One thing to note: Originally cornbread did not contain sugar. As disposable income increased, this expensive ingredient was added as a variation, to make cornbread more like a cake.

    Unfortunately, more and more sugar was added until cornbread became an overly-sweet, simple bread. That’s fine if you want cake; you can serve sweet cornbread with berries and whipped cream.

    But if it’s bread you want, lose the sugar. We prefer to add whole corn kernels for sweetness, or enjoy cornbread as a savory bread.
     
    CRÈME FRAÎCHE, MASCARPONE OR SOUR CREAM?

    When should you use which? Here are the differences.

    Here are the differences.

     

    Corn Pone

    Johnnycakes

    Original Corn Plant

    [1] Hoecakes. Here’s the recipe from the Wall Street Journal (photo Christopher Testani | Wall Street Journal). [2] Johnnycakes come in different shapes—flatter, plumper, individual or the size of an entire skillet. Here’s the recipe for these pancake-syle johnnycakes from About.SouthernFood.com. [3] Who would have imagined that the wisp at the left evolved into the plump ear of corn we know today? Here’s the whole story.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Instead Of Cinco De Mayo, Celebrate September 16th…With Reposado Tequila

    Blue Nectar Reposado Tequila

    Tequila Manhattan Cocktail

    [1] Reposado tequila is the preferred type for celebrations [2] Distrito Federal is Manhattan cocktail that replaces the bourbon with tequila (all photos courtesy Blue Nectar Tequila).

     

    Many Americans look forward to celebrating Cinco de Mayo each spring. This relatively small Mexican holiday commemorates a regional battle in 1862, long after Mexican Independence was declared. More Americans celebrate it than Mexicans!

    Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day.

    That honor goes September 16th, known as Grito de Dolores (The Cry of Dolores, the town where the battle began). It’s the most popular holiday in Mexico.

    Here’s the scoop on Mexican Independence Day, commemorating the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence from Spanish colonial rule in 1810.

    As with America’s Independence Day, the Mexican National Day of Independence is a patriotic holiday, with celebratory drinks, food and fireworks.

    Today’s tip: Wherever you live, celebrate Mexican Independence Day on the 16th.

    The folks at Blue Nectar Tequila tell us that the most popular type of tequila consumed in Mexico on national holidays is the more aged (and more expensive) Reposado, not the clear Blanco (a.k.a. silver or white tequila—here are the different types of tequila).

    Blanco is aged not at all or up to two months, while Reposado and Añejo tequilas are aged longer: Reposado for six months to a year, Añejo for one to three years. Aging gives layers of complexity to the spirit.

    While tequila was first produced in the 16th century by Spanish immigrants to Mexico, aged tequila styles such as Reposado and Añejo did not appear until the early 1900s.

    Some producers began to age their tequila in oak casks left over from red wine, brandy and rum that had been imported for consumption by the Spanish aristocracy.

    This stroke of genius changed the overall quality and taste of basic tequila, which at the time was raw-edged and without complexity.

    So today’s tip is: Celebrate September 16th by sipping a glass of Reposado or Añejo tequila, neat or on the rocks, enjoying the flavors with each sip.

    Or try one of the cocktails below, or this wonderful menu of tequila cocktail recipes.

     
    WHAT TO EAT WITH THE TEQUILA

    Reposado tequila has a woodsy quality that pairs well with beef-based, poultry and pork-type main dishes. (complementary flavors in recipes include orange, cinnamon and honey).

    Instead of America’s go-to grilled food for Independence Day, a favorite dish in Mexico is pozole, a classic soup made of hominy and pork.

    In modern times it’s also made with beef, chicken, seafood, or vegetables and beans. Here’s a selection of pozole recipes.

    For dessert, have churros or dark chocolate with Añejo tequila.

    And sure: Bring on the guacamole, salsa, chips and esquites—Mexican corn on the cob.
     
    COCKTAIL RECIPE #1: DISTRITO FEDERAL

    The classic bourbon-based Manhattan cocktail is the inspiration for this Mexican version, which is named after historic Mexico City, an area known as Distrito Federal.
     
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces Reposado or Añejo tequila
  • 1 ounce sweet red vermouth
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: brandied cherry
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the spirits and bitters in a cocktail glass. Add ice and stir until cold, about one to two minutes.

    2. STRAIN into a coupe glass, garnish with the cherry and serve.

     

    COCKTAIL RECIPE #2: MEXIPOLITAN COCKTAIL

    Ingredients Per Drink

    The vodka-based Cosmo is remade with Reposado teqila.

  • 4 lime quarters
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 ½ ounces Reposado tequila
  • 1 ounce cranberry juice
  • ¾ ounce orange liqueur
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: lime wheel
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MUDDLE the lime quarters with the simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add the tequila, orange liqueur and cranberry juice.

    2. TOP with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lime wheel.

     

    Tequila Cosmopolitan Cocktail

    [3] The Mexipolitan: A Cosmopolitan with tequila instead of vodka. Calling Carrie Bradshaw!

     

    FIND MORE DELICIOUS TEQUILA COCKTAIL RECIPES AT BLUENECTARTEQUILA.COM.
     
    ABOUT BLUE NECTAR TEQUILA

    Blue Nectar Tequila, is a hand-crafted, super-premium tequila that focuses on agave-forward flavor profiles.

    While by Mexican law Reposado must be aged a minimum of 2 months, Blue Nectar Reposado Extra Blend is aged 6-8 months and then blended with three-year-old Extra Añejo, to deliver hints of vanilla and smoke.

    For more information on the different expressions of Blue Nectar tequila, visit BlueNectarTequila.com.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur & How To Infuse Your Own

    Ancho Reyes Liqueur

    Casa Noble Reposado Tequila

    Tequila Cocktail

    [1] Today’s pick: Ancho Reyes chile liqueur (photo courtesy Ancho Reyes). [2] Casa Noble reposado and blanco tequilas. Mix reposado with the liqueur in the cocktail below (photo courtesy Casa Noble). [3] Combine them to make this delicious cocktail (photo courtesy Casa Noble).

     

    If you like tequila, mezcal and the cuisine and culture of Mexico, why should you celebrate September 16th?

    Because it’s Mexican Independence Day.

    In the U.S., the holiday Americans celebrate is Cinco de Mayo. But Cinco de Mayo is a minor holiday in Mexico. More Americans celebrate it than Mexicans!

    Here’s the scoop on Mexican Independence Day, commemorating the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence from Spanish colonial rule in 1810—the biggest holiday celebration in Mexico.

    Why do Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

    The date commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over superior French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It is celebrated locally in the city and state of Puebla, in south-central Mexico.

    A relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the U.S. Cinco de Mayo has taken on a life of its own. It has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations, and many non-Mexican fans of the cuisine. Here’s more on the holiday.

    So what’s today’s tip?

    Celebrate with some chile-infused liqueur.
     
    ANCHO REYES LIQUEUR

    In 1927, the Reyes family of Puebla, Mexico made a homemade liqueur from the area’s ample ancho chile crop. Fortunately, they decided to make it commercially.

    We love its smoky heat, for mixing, sipping neat, in marinades or for drizzling over lemon or lime sorbet.

    It’s not simple, sweet heat: Beyond the smoky chile are notes of cinnamon, cocoa, herbs and tamarind (maybe more depending on the sensitivity of your palate).

    Here’s a detailed story in pictures of how the chiles are grown and infused to become Ancho Reyes.

    We’ve seen it on Wine-Tracker from $29.99 to a high of $48.99.
     
    RECIPE: IN NOBLE FASHION (TEQUILA & ANCHO CHILE LIQUEUR)

    We really enjoyed this cocktail from Casa Noble Tequila (here are more recipes).

    The recipe specifies reposado tequila, slightly aged (a minimum of two months by law): Casa Noble reposed is matured in French white oak barrels for 364 days!

    We had only silver/blanco, but it was delicious just the same. (Here are the different types of tequila.)
     
    Ingredients

  • 1.5 ounces reposado tequila
  • .5 ounce ancho chile liqueur
  • .25 ounce simple syrup
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 2 drops mole bitters
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: orange peel
  • Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients—except the garnish and ice—in a mixing glass. Stir and strain the drink into a glass over ice.

    2. SQUEEZE the orange peel into the glass; then rub the inside of the peel around rim and drop into the glass.
     
    FIND MORE COCKTAILS FOR ANCHO CHILE LIQUEUR AT ANCHOREYES.COM.

    Here’s an Ancho Reyes cocktail we published, featuring grilled pineapple.

     

    OTHER CHILE-INFUSED SPIRITS

    While not an exhaustive list, we found these products at retailers:

  • Tanteo (a NIBBLE favorite) and other brands make chile-infused tequila.
  • Stolichnaya and other brands make chile-infused vodka.
  • Patrón XO Cafe Incendio adds arbol chiles to a chocolate liqueur based on their tequila.
  • Kiss Of Fire is another chile-infused liqueur.
  •  
    HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN CHILE-INFUSED TEQUILA

    You can infuse tequila or vodka (or any other spirit) with fresh chiles. The spirit adds more heat to Margaritas and Bloody Marys (and the tequila-based Bloody Maria and Chipotle Maria.

    You can also cook with the infused spirits. Just search online for “cooking with tequila” (or vodka) and you’ll find everything from salad dressing and marinades to pasta sauce and tequila-lime sorbet.

    You can use any type of chile; habaneros will give more heat than jalapeños (check the Scoville Heat Units. For a smoky flavor, chose ancho or chipotle.

    Try three chiles your first time out. If you want more heat when you taste it after 3-4 weeks, you can add more chiles and infuse for another 3-4 weeks (or just use more chiles next time).

    Here’s our glossary of the different types of chiles.
     
    Ingredients

  • 1 bottle (750ml) tequila, vodka or other spirit
  • 3 large chile peppers
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WASH the chiles, pat dry, slit lengthwise and insert into the bottle of tequila.

    2. CAP the bottle tightly and place in a cool (away from a heat source), dark place for 3 weeks. Taste and if you want more chile flavor, infuse for another 1-2 weeks.

    3. KEEP or strain the chiles from the bottle, depending on how you like the look.

     

    Ancho Chile

    Infused Tequila

    [4] An ancho chile, used to infuse the alcohol base of Ancho Reyes chile liqueur (photo courtesy CulinaryArts.About.com). [5] It’s easy to infuse your own favorite chiles into tequila or vodka. This photo shows how Foodie Misadventures did it (photo © Foodie Misadventures).

     
    Infused spirits are great for gifting!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Serve A Guacamole Trio

    Guacamole Recipes

    Chunky Guacamole

    Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

    Top: Serve three different guacamole “flavors” at once (photo courtesy Avocados From Mexico). Center: Chunky guacamole (photo courtesy Calavo Growers). Bottom: Guacamole in cherry tomatoes (photo courtesy FronteraFiesta.com).

     

    So many guacamole recipes, so little time!

    The solution: Make guacamole trios, three different recipes at a time. Here are some favorites of ours:

  • Bacon Cheddar Guacamole Recipe
  • BLT Guacamole Crostini Recipe and Deconstructed Guacamole Crostini
  • Roasted Corn Guacamole Recipe
  • Sour Cream Guacamole Recipe
  • Tomatillo Guacamole Recipe
  •  
    You can also go for the Do-It-Yourself option: a Guacamole Party Bar. With the mashed avocado, lime juice and salt, provide some of the following:

  • Tomato group: tomato, tomatillo, salsa, sundried tomatoes
  • Onion group: chives, onion, green onion/scallion, pickled onions, red onion, shallots
  • Heat: chili flakes, minced chiles, hot sauce
  • Cheese: blue cheese, cotija, queso fresco, grated cheddar (try jalapeño cheddar) or jack
  • Creamy: crème fraîche, sour cream, yogurt
  • Fruit: dried fruits, mango, melon, papaya, pomegranate arils, strawberry
  • Herbs: basil, bell pepper, cayenne, cilantro, garlic cloves, mint, parsley, sage, tarragon
  • Vegetables: asparagus, corn, jicama, radish/daikon
  • Wild card: bacon, crab meat, minced pork or ham, olives, toasted nuts
  • Tomatillo Guacamole Recipe
  •  
    And then, there’s Crocamole, a crodadile-shaped presentation for kids.

    Serve a trio of chips, too: perhaps yellow tortilla chips, blue tortilla chips and pita chips.

     
    Also check out this fusion recipes from California Avocado Growers for Cajun Guacamole, French Guacamole, Greek Guacamole, Italian guacamole, Japanese guacamole.

    There are 21 pages of guacamole recipes on the website, including a Cranberry Guacamole recipe for the holidays.
     
    THE HISTORY OF GUACAMOLE

    Mesoamericans cultivated the wild avocado, a tree fruit that had grown in the region for millions of years. Dating back to Mayan times (pre-Aztec), guacamole was made from avocado, onion, chiles, fresh tomato, and salt, a recipe that is still made today.

    The conquering Aztecs called the avocado ahuacatl. The “tl” is pronounced “tay” in Nahuatl, the Aztec language, hence, ah-hwa-CAH-tay. AhuacamOlli (ah-waka-MOLE-ee) is a compound of ahuacatl [avocado] + mOlli [sauce]. The chocolate-based mole sauce comes from that same word, mOlli.

     
    When the Spanish conquistadors under Hernán Cortés arrived in 1519, they heard ah-hwah-cah-tay as “aguacate,” the spelling and pronounciation they used. In Spanish, ahuacamOlli became guacamole (huac-ah-MOE-lay).

    Guacamole ingredients were mashed in a molcajete (mol-cah-HET-tay), a Mexican pestle carved from volcanic stone (today granite is an easier-to-clean option). Over time, different regions of Mexico mixed in local ingredients, creating countless variations.

    Ahuacatl, avocado, first meant “testicle” in Nahuatl. The Aztecs saw the avocado as resembling testicles and ate them as a sex stimulant.

    According to Linda Stradley on the website WhatsCookingInAmerica.com, for centuries after Europeans came into contact with the avocado, it carried its reputation for inducing sexual prowess. It wasn’t purchased or consumed by any genteel person concerned with his or her reputation.

    American avocado growers had to sponsor a public relations campaign to dispel the myth before avocados could become popular. After then, their dark green, pebbly flesh also earned avocados the polite name, “alligator pear.”
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Hispanic-Style Cheeses & How To Use Them

    In the past, Hispanic-style cheeses could be difficult to find in the U.S., often requiring a trip to a Mexican specialty food store. But as with Mexican food in general, Hispanic-style cheeses continue to grow in popularity, with many varieties now available in mainstream supermarkets across the country.

    California is the country’s leading producer of Hispanic-style cheeses, followed by Wisconsin. You don’t need to wait for Cinco De Mayo to try them, but they’ll make the celebration more authentic. Thanks to the California Milk Advisory Board for this guide to domestic-made, Hispanic-style cheeses.

    Note that the names given here are the most common names for these cheeses. However, it is not uncommon for a Hispanic-style cheese to be called by more than one name. Also, some cheesemakers sell their cheeses under a proprietary name. In most cases the names given here will be on the package.
     
    FRESH HISPANIC-STYLE CHEESES

    Fresh (unripened) cheeses are very young cheeses that have not been allowed to age. Typically, fresh cheeses are soft and moist, white or off-white in color. They have a shorter shelf life than aged cheeses and must be kept in the refrigerator.

    Many Hispanic-style cheeses soften but do not melt when cooked. Because they hold their shape when heated, they are often used as fillings or toppings in recipes. They also tend to have mild to pronounced saltiness, so require less salt added to recipes. You can find them in whole-milk or low-fat varieties.

  • Oaxaca (wa-HA-ka) is a mild, firm white cheese with a sweet milk flavor and slight saltiness. Its texture is similar to mozzarella and string cheese, and it is used the same way. The cheese is made either in a rolled ball or braided, the latter said to represent the braided silver crafted in the town of Oaxaca, Mexico, where the cheese originated. The cheese melts well and is often shredded into main dishes prior to cooking.
  • Panela (pah-NAY-la) is mild and moist with a sweet, fresh milk flavor and a firm texture similar to mozzarella. It doesn’t melt, but softens and holds its shape. It can be fried and is also used in sandwiches, salads and with fruit. Pamela has a distinctive basketweave texture from the round basket in which the cheese is drained.
  •    

    Braided Oaxaca Cheese

    Queso Fresca With Salsa

    Top: Braided Oaxaca cheese (photo courtesy Cheese.com). Bottom: Queso fresco with mango salsa (photo courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com).

  • Queso Blanco (KAY-so BLAN-co) is a white, mild, creamy cheese similar to a mild Cheddar or Jack. It is used in much the same way.
  • Queso Blanco Fresco (KAY-so BLAN-co FRES-co) is also called Queso Para Freir (KAY-so PA-ra fray-EER), cheese for frying. It is a firm, moist cheese that is used in cooked dishes. As its name implies, it is often fried because it holds its shape under heat. It is also crumbled onto fruit, salads, beans and other dishes.
  • Queso Fresco (KAY-so FRES-co) is the most popular Hispanic-style cheese, soft and moist with a mild saltiness and slight acidity similar to farmers cheese. It crumbles easily and softens but does not melt. Queso Fresco is often used in enchiladas, and as a topping or filling in cooked dishes.
  • Requesón (ray-keh-SOHN) is similar to ricotta: It is made from whey and has a soft, grainy texture and fresh milk taste. It is used much the same as ricotta: in salads, spreads, fillings, in cooked foods and desserts.
  •  

    Crumbled Cotija

    Enchilado Anejo Cheese

    Top: Crumbly Cotija cheese can be used like feta (photo courtesy BakeoffFlunkie. blogspot.com). Bottom: Enchilado Anejo is similar to Cotija, but is rubbed with mild red chili or paprika for added flavor (photo courtesy SpecialtyProduce.com).

     

    AGED HISPANIC-STYLE CHEESES

    Aged Hispanic cheeses are made in semi-firm and firm styles. Some will soften but not melt when heated; others are excellent melting cheeses that add richness and creaminess to cooked foods.

    Aged cheeses have a longer shelf life than fresh cheeses. Store them in the fridge and handle them as you would Cheddar or Jack. Most are available in whole-milk or low-fat varieties.

    Note that “añejo” (aged) means something different in Hispanic-style cheeses: It is not analogous to American and European aged cheeses. Hispanic-style cheeses are aged to some degree, but their dry texture and pungent, sharp flavor come from being salted, pressed and dried rather than being aged for a long time.

  • Asadero (ah-sah-DARE-oh) is 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 nachos and quesadillas, as well as on hamburgers and sandwiches. Note that Asadero comes in processed versions as well as natural cheese versions. Go for the natural.
  • Cotija (ko-TEE-hah) is named after the town of Cotija, Mexico, where it originated. This firm, very salty cheese is similar to a dry feta in many respects, and is used similarly in cooked foods. It is often crumbled and sprinkled as a garnish over soups, salads and bean dishes. The moisture content will vary by manufacturer, ranging from semi-firm to very firm, although all versions are quite crumbly. Cotija is also sold in grated form.
  • Cotija Añejo (ko-TEE-hah on-YAY-ho) is a version of Cotija that has been aged longer; it is typically made from low-fat milk. Some manufacturers call it Queso Añejo, or simply, Añejo. It is fairly hard 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.
  • Enchilado (en-chee-LA-do), also called Enchilado Añejo, is a dry, crumbly white cheese similar to Cotija añejo. It is distinguished by its colorful reddish appearance, the result of a coating of mild red chili or paprika, which adds a slightly spicy flavor. Crumble or slice it onto Mexican foods, soups and salads. In cooked dishes, it softens but does not melt.
  • Manchego (mon-CHAY-go) is based on the famous Manchego cheese of La Mancha, Spain, where it is traditionally made from sheep’s milk. Here, it is made from low-fat cow’s milk, which gives it a different personality. 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 a cheese course or snack with fruit and wine. It also melts well in cooking.
  • Menonita (meh-no-NEE-ta) is a mild, smooth white cheese that originated in the Mennonite community of Chihuahua, Mexico. Menonita is a good table cheese: Similar in flavor to Gouda, it can be used just like Gouda in recipes.
  •  
    IN SUM…

    Latin cuisine can be spicy, but the cheeses are usually mild, providing a pleasant contrast. Dairy products also lessen the heat of fiery chile peppers*.

    When choosing a Hispanic-style cheese for cooking, keep these three categories in mind:

  • Fresh cheeses like Panela, Queso Blanco and Queso Fresco soften when heated but don’t melt. You can use them to make dishes with a soft, creamy filling that won’t run out onto the plate (like Chiles Rellenos).
  • Melting cheeses like Asadero, Oaxaca and Queso Quesadilla are creamy and mild: excellent for eating as a snack or on a cheese plate. They’re the preferred cheeses for quesadillas, queso fundido and tacos, but they’re also great for topping burgers and pizza. Sprinkle some pickled jalapeños and chopped cilantro on top for even more authentic Latin flavor.
  • Hard cheeses like Cotija can be crumbled or grated for a garnish, or mixed into a casserole or sauce for added flavor.
  •  
    Delicioso!
     
    *The casein (a protein) in dairy binds with the capsaicin (the heat component of chiles) to help wash it out of your mouth.

      

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