As promised in yesterday’s Seasonal Pantry, here are links to some of my favorite Mexican dishes. In that column, which featured recipes for snapper ceviche, Drunken Chicken, orange, onion and jicama salad and strawberry-hibiscus agua fresca, I also promised a recipe for one of the best appetizers ever. It’s true–Queso Fundido, which is simply melted cheese with a few delicious embellishments, is so good that you risk ruining everyone’s appetite. You may even want to make it the centerpiece of a meal instead of offering it as a starter. It is seriously irresistible.
But first, what about beverages? Now that we think of ourselves as Wine Country, it’s all but automatic to serve wine at any gathering. But a Mexican feast calls for thinking outside the wine bottle. If it’s hot, always serve agua fresca. It’s a good idea even when it is not hot, as there are adults who don’t drink alcohol and kids love the beverage. When it comes to alcohol, you can opt for Margaritas–shaken, not blended, is my preference–but I like ice-cold beer, preferably Bohemian, which I write about here. It’s my favorite Mexican beer but it isn’t as widely available as it should be. Some stores simply don’t carry it “because of shelf space,” they tell me. I find it worth the effort to look for it; I usually find it at Oliver’s Market. If you want to add tequila to the options, consider Tequila Clase Azul Reposado, which is extraordinarily smooth and also comes in a truly stunning bottle, worth keeping after the last drop has been squeezed out.
Queso Fundido Makes 8 servings
- 2 pounds cheese (any mix of St. George, Bellwether Carmody, Sonoma Jack, mild cheddar or other similar cheeses)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 serranos, minced
- 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
- 3 poblanos, roasted, seeded, and cut into thin julienne
- 4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
- 2 to 3 dozen small corn tortillas, hot
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- In a large bowl, toss together the cheese, garlic, serranos and chipotle powder. Put the mixture in an ovenproof earthenware dish and bake until the cheese is bubbly, about 15 minutes. Scatter the poblanos on top and cook 5 minutes more.
- Remove from the oven, scatter the scallions and cilantro on top and serve immediately, with hot tortillas alongside. Each guest takes two tortillas (one on top of the other), smears a generous portion of the queso on top and rolls it up.
- Jicama is both refreshing and delicious, a perfect contrast to a rich pozole. The addition of pomegranates is beautiful, scrumptious and traditional.
Pozole Blanco It’s not just for Halloween
Jamaica Agua Fresca
Some of my favorite tamale recipes have mysteriously disappeared from the web site. I’ll feature them in an upcoming blog post.