Queso fundido

Día  de la Independencia, Mexico’s Day of Independence, normally finds us in Mascota watching the parade of beautifully costumed señoritas, the dashing caballeros on horseback, and the cute children dressed as revolutionaries from the 19th century. But it was not to be this year, as the governor of Jalisco had called off all festivities and gatherings because of covid. It rained much of the day anyway, so it was a good day to stay home and celebrate with queso fundido, melted cheese similar to fondue, but better. Better because of the additions of chorizo, rajas of poblano chile, and salsa roja.

This dish is commonly served as an appetizer at restaurants, but we made lunch of it. It was close to our quota of cheese for the month, but what a way to have a month’s worth of cheese! Actually, it proved too much to polish off for lunch, so leftovers became the filling for the next morning’s omelet, which Russ enjoyed as much as the fundido.

Queso Fundido serves 4 as an appetizer

  • 1 poblano chile
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 small onion, sliced
  • large pinch of salt
  • 3 oz (85 g) chorizo
  • 8 oz. (227 g) cheese, grated
  • 4-6 corn tortillas, warmed
  • salsa roja
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  1. Toast and peel poblano chile. Cut into strips (rajas). Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 °F (232 °C) with rack at top of oven.
  3. Sauté onion until just starting to brown. Add poblano strips, cook 2 minutes more. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  4. In same skillet crumble and cook chorizo.
  5. Place cheese in lightly oiled, oven-proof dish or skillet. Bake until cheese is completely melted, about 8 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and spoon poblano/onion mixture and chorizo over top.
  7. Return to oven and bake about 8-10 minutes, until cheese is starting to brown at edges and has browned spots on surface.
  8. Serve bubbling hot with warm tortillas, avocado slices and salsa.

Notes ~

~ To make a vegetarian version, substitute sautéed mushrooms for the chorizo.

~ Use a cheese that melts easily. I used 4 ounces of sharp, white cheddar and 4 ounces of manchego. Other cheese suggestions are Monterey Jack, muenster, Oaxaca string cheese or mozzarella.

~ Queso fundido is common in northern Mexico, where it is served with flour tortillas.

~ In different regions of Mexico, chile guajillo and chile ancho are called chile teñir. I know. I’m confused, also.

© 2009-2020 COOKING IN MEXICO ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Molletes and Salsa Fresca

Molletes are common lunch fare, found in mercados and street stalls, but so easy to make at home. They are Mexico’s grilled cheese sandwiches, but heartier with refried beans and salsa fresca, fresh salsa that Russ and I still call pico de gallo — beak of the rooster — because that’s the name we learned when we first encountered it on our early trips to Mexico.

Bolillos, the crusty yeast rolls found everywhere in Mexico, are the base for molletes. During these covid days (months), my neighbor Maria and I take turns going into Mascota to pick up our pre-ordered groceries from Pepe’s. When I ordered bolillos, I got round, soft rolls. Not what I wanted. The next time it was my turn to go in, I pointed to the pointy rolls in the glass case in front of the store, not knowing what to call them, because to Pepe they weren’t bolillos. But they were! The grocery receipt itemized them as bolillos telera grande, a full 8″ (20 cm) long. We had molletes muy grande! If you can’t get bolillos or teleras by any name, crusty French bread makes a fine substitution.

Molletes ~ serves 4-6

  • 3 bolillos, or French bread cut into 6 4-6″ lengths
  • 4 tablespoons soft butter
  • 2 cups refried black beans, hot
  • 9 ounces grated manchego or Oaxaca cheese
  • 6 tablespoons cotija cheese, crumbled, optional garnish
  • 2 cups fresh salsa (recipe below)
  1. Cut bolillos in half lengthwise. Using a fork, pull out much of the doughy interior. Lightly butter cut side of bolillos and toast under a broiler until light brown.
  2. Heat oven to 400ºF (180ºC).
  3. Spread about 1/ 3 cup of refried beans across toasted side, filling cavity.
  4. Sprinkle cheese over beans and return to oven until cheese is melted.
  5. Spoon salsa generously over melted cheese, topping with optional cotija cheese. Serve immediately. Good with pickled onion, cebolla encurtida.

Salsa Fresca or Pico de Gallo ~ about 2 cups

  • 2 Roma tomatoes, about 10 ounces (283 g), finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (2.4 oz/68 g) minced red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 – 2 jalapeño or serrano chiles, seeded and finely minced
  • 1/2 cup (.7 oz/20g) cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Mix all ingredients. Adjust salt

Notes ~

~ For breakfast, serve molletes with a fried egg on the side. Russ wanted his with a scrambled egg on top (pictured below). And additional salsa verde, just because. I don’t know if Mexicans add eggs to molletes, but it worked for us.

~ On one of our trips to Mexico, before we made it our home, we came across a panedería with a wood-fired oven in the little town of Ciudad Fernández, in the state of San Luis Potosí. Such crusty bolillos, with a hint of wood smoke. Twenty-some years later, those bolillos remain a delicious memory.

~ The double “l” in mollete is pronounced as a “y” sound. Mo-YEH-tay. Bolillo is pronounced bo-LEE-yoh.

© 2009-2021 COOKING IN MEXICO ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

Chiles Rellenos — poblano chiles stuffed with cheese and served with tomato sauce

A Classic Mexican Recipe

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Chiles are the essence of Mexico. Vibrant in color and intense in flavor, they are found in many Mexican dishes. Chiles Rellenos, a Mexican classic, feature poblano chiles stuffed with cheese, dipped in egg, then fried until golden and served in a shining pool of tomato sauce.

Chiles Rellenos
Makes 6

  • 6 thick-walled poblano chiles
  • 1/2 lb. (230 grams) cheese of your choice, cut into 6 wedges
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) all purpose flour
  • 2 lbs. (900 grams) fresh tomatoes (or canned tomatoes — see note)
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoon dry Mexican oregano
  • salt to taste
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • mild vegetable oil for frying

1. First, blister and peel the poblano chiles.

Mexican Potato Salad with Three Chiles 001

2. While poblanos are steaming, cut tomatoes into quarters or eighths, depending on their size, and squeeze out seeds. Strain seeds, saving the juice. Roughly chop onion and garlic.

3. Purée tomatoes, juice, onion and garlic in blender. Fry the sauce. (Yes, you read it right. “Fry” is the verb used in Mexican cookbooks to describe making a cooked salsa.) Bring 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a moderately high temperature in the  skillet, add the tomato mixture, and stand back — it will spatter and spit a bit, but will calm down as you stir it. Add dry Mexican oregano (not Greek oregano) and stir occasionally while simmering  for 15 minutes. Salt to taste, but don’t skimp on the salt. Too little will result in a flat-tasting sauce.

4. While the sauce is simmering, peel and seed chiles and stuff with wedges of cheese. If the piece of cheese is not too large, you can slightly fold the flap of chile over the other side of the slit, sealing the cheese in. The cooked egg batter will hold this flap closed.

5. For egg coating: beat egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon of salt until stiff but not dry. Fold in beaten egg yolks. This is the chile coating. There is no flour added.

Chiles Rellenos -- Poblano Chiles Stuffed with Cheese and Served with Tomato Sauce -- A Mexican Classic

6.  Keeping the flap closed, roll each chile in flour, without getting flour inside the chile. (Mexican cocineras use a toothpick to hold the slit closed.) The idea is to completely cover it with flour so that the egg has something to stick to. Then dip each chile in the beaten egg to completely coat it.

7. Use enough oil in your skillet for a depth of 3/4″ – 1″. Heat oil to 350 deg. F. (180 C.). Fry two chiles at a time. If you try to do more, the first chile in the pan will start to burn while you are coating the others. (I learned this the hard way.) Turn the chiles over after 30-45 seconds in the oil, or until they are golden brown on all sides. Place on several layers of paper towels to absorb oil. Keep warm on a hot plate or in a 200 deg. F. (95 C.) oven while you batter and cook the remaining chiles. While cooking the chiles, keep the tomato sauce hot.

8. When all are done, spoon hot tomato sauce into individual dishes or in a large platter and arrange chiles rellenos on the sauce.

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Notes:

~ Mexican cookbooks recommend a variety of cheeses for Chiles Rellenos, including Oaxaca string cheese, Mozzarella and Monterey Jack. A good cheddar is assertive enough to stand up to the flavorful chiles and tomato sauce. For this recipe, I used Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar from Costco.

~ To make the preparation of this dish more manageable, make the sauce and blister and peel the chiles the day before.

~ Be prepared for a wide range of heat level. Poblanos are generally a mild chile, but every now and then they veer off the heat scale.

~ When selecting poblanos, look for those that are flat with two sides, rather than three sides. This shape allows for less cooking time when blistering and frying.

~ In the winter, it may be impossible to find fresh tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes. If this is the case, you will do better using canned tomatoes, which usually have a good flavor.

~ There are no rules in cooking (baking is a different matter). If you want to fill your chile relleno with crab and mornay sauce, or well-seasoned black beans and shrimp, please invite me to dinner.

~ Leftover chiles rellenos, re-heated, make an excellent sandwich filling. In the market of a small town, we had tortas de chiles rellenos — bolillos, the common bread roll of Mexico, filled with cheese-stuffed poblanos. With this memory to prompt us, we had  left-over chiles rellenos in bolillos for lunch at home. Split the bolillo horizontally and pull out the soft center to make room for the chile. Spoon some hot tomato sauce onto both sides of the roll. Muy delicioso!

~ Today’s Spanish lesson: This dish is often misspelled as “Chile Rellenos”. If Chile is singular (without an “s”), so too is the descriptive word, “relleno”. Chile Relleno or Chiles Rellenos are the correct spellings.

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