It’s supposed to be winter but what we keep getting hammered with is an emotional mish-mosh of precipitation and tickle-my-toes sand weather. It was 72F on Tuesday and snowing this morning when I woke up. The wind was blistering and the sparkly white dust was flying sideways landing on pine needles. If the weather would just stay put as God would have it be seasonly, then I’d have a better idea of what my cooking options are. At least I could anticipate my appetite and shop for the things that pair well with the weather. Certain things just don’t go with snow and ice just like hot soup won’t sit well while I’m lounging on the beach. But, cheese my friends, is good no matter what… Sauce, dip, string, slices, you name it! It’s always a good time for queso.
And, with Super Bowl festivities kicking off tomorrow, colorful and filling recipes abound, of which I’m sure many will involve mucho, mucho queso. I’ve opted out of hosting a football party this year, but I like to satisfy my own cravings when they hit. Surely, no matter where I plant myself on Sunday afternoon, my hand will be reaching for snackage. Cheesy snacks. I go through moments of needing a certain food and after a solid break from cheese over the last 8 or so months, my body is begging for it. A trip to Whole Foods recently sparked it.
In my deep excitement for the Redskins making it to notable championship this year, I did decide to make one staple side for my brothers to enjoy in their fiestas. They all love nachos, haystacks (something we grew up eating on Sabbath) and cheesy sandwiches, so I made a sauce for them to slather all over their chips or just dip into.
I was mostly inspired by a huge stack of cheeses from Karoun’s Dairy I’ve been wanting to play with. I took a private tour of their factory in Turlock, Cali last summer and fell in love with their story — mostly a family-oriented one and all handmade — and their portfolio of quesos. I’m prepping to share a really delicious post recapping the experience of visiting a few dairy farms in Modesto and the Karoun facility, but in the meantime, know that I left the ultra-sterilized building wanting to become a super cheese head. More on that later for sure.
From Latin varieties to Mediterranean recipes, Karoun‘s cheeses spread (no pun intended) the plate with options. In this house, we love whites but anything will do most times. I’m particularly a fan artisanal French and Spanish options, but for simpler dishes, a good melting cheese will do the trick..
Queso blanco, a staple in Mexican cuisine, is the perfect go-to one for making just about anything this weekend. And, Karoun’s is authentic enough where the light flavor components allow for modifying and making something really special.
I didn’t have a plan when I pulled out a saucepan to start whisking, I just knew I wanted it to be creamy, gooey and diverse enough to use at least four different ways.
I started with making roux to thicken it up. Some butter and flour. I chopped up the block of queso blanco, added some spices to find the right flavor and voila! Un queso para toda ocassion. I whisked until I reached a consistency good enough for pouring over nachos, tacos, burritos, vegetables, etc… yet silky enough for dipping into the chip bowl.
I’m looking to create more delectable cheese recipes in the very near future (wink, wink!). If you think about it, it’s that perfect ingredient that binds together so many lovley dishes!
Like quesadillas, one of my favorite bar snacks.
If you’re enjoying the Super Bowl this weekend, go all in and make this rich, homemade treat everyone will want to make for themselves. Invite them to add it to their festive recipe box!
Because cheese really is a happy food. It can be homey and cheesy or it can be refined and sophisticated. This weekend, let’s go for simple and cheesy, but high quality.
QUESO FRESCO SAUCE
- 8 oz. whole milk queso fresco
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1 heaping Tbsp. flour
- 2 tsp. hot sauce
- 1/2 tsp. cumin
- Spring onions for garnish
In medium sauce pan, melt butter. Stir in flour. Cut cheese block in quarters. Add and fold using wooden spoon. Whisk in milk and stir until all ingredients are well blended. Cook on medium-high heat until cheese starts bubbling, approximately 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add in hot sauce and cumin. Reduce heat to low and stir to blend. Cook for 2-3 more minutes. For a thicker sauce, add one additional tablespoon of flour. To thin out cheese sauce, add 1/8 cup more milk.
Pour into serving bowl for dipping or pour nachos or any other dish requiring cheese.
*minced, seeded jalapeños can substitute the hot sauce