We were trying to find great recipes that would use our Queso Fresco. This cheese is new to most people, so we are often asked how to use it. We wanted to put some recipes on this webpage, as well as have some available to hand out at various events we are at. To solve this issue, we enlisted the help of our Senior Intern (and Deeann’s husband), Greg! Here is what he sent back to us…
I have spent a fair amount of time and energy (and ingredients) over the last few days trying to come up with recipes for your Queso Fresco. It’s a great cheese! It melts well, it tastes great, it has a creamy consistency, and is adaptable for many delicious applications!
Unfortunately, cheese dip has been very difficult…
Like Jackie, I tried starting with a roux which then became a Bechamel Sauce when I added milk. The advantage to doing this is to prevent the cheeses propensity to separate. The starch in bechamel releases large threads of amylose…
SCIENCE SIDE BAR: Think of starch, whether in flour, potato’s, etc., as small tightly packed little rocks full of energy and calories. When mixed with fat (butter or oil) and cooked over moderate heat, these tightly packed starch (gluten) molecules are unlocked, and when they are mixed with liquid over heat, they expand dramatically! Think about the surprise “snakes” that pop out of the “peanut brittle” can when opened by the unsuspecting dupe. These suddenly very long starch molecules wrap around the cheese proteins, known as Casein’s (which are actually a conglomeration of several proteins), preventing the casein’s from squeezing out fat that would then recombine into curds. Without these exploded and enveloping starch molecules, melted cheese usually becomes an oily and grainy mess.
I then added shredded Queso over gentle heat and the cheese immediately clumped up and became quite stringy…much like what you would like on top of a Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. Good for pizza but not so good for a dip. I added milk incrementally, whisking the whole time, but even though the tongue texture was smooth and creamy, the visible texture was lumpy, clumpy, and stringy. Not the way to go.
My next option was to try a dip that included American Cheese… DON’T HATE ME!!! The interesting thing about American Cheese is that it has a lot of emulsifying salts that act nearly identically to exploded starch molecules, and similarly, they act as a stabilizing agent for aged cheeses such as extra sharp cheddar. I chose not to explore this option for your Queso Dip because I don’t want to have you explain why your cheese dip is equal parts “Artisan Cheese” and Velveeta at the market. Enough said.
I next tried a dip I found in Cooks Country and thought I could adapt. It had chorizo sausage cooked with onion, pablano chili, and garlic cooked together. The cheese was a 50/50 mix of Queso Fresco and Sharp Cheddar tossed with some corn starch and water, then microwaved and stirred occasionally. (Corn Starch has more gluten in it then flour, which is why it is often used as a thickening agent in sauces, stews, and gravy’s) It tasted great! But once again it was very stringy and not an appropriate texture for a dip….
The problem, once you think about it, is obvious. Your Queso Fresco is a fresh young cheese, much like Mozzarella! Because it is young, the protein strands that hold it together and give it structure (much like gluten in bread) are long and strong, and very resistant to separating. As cheeses age, these protein bonds are slowly broken down by the enzymes that give aged cheeses their depth of flavor. That’s why older and aged cheeses tend to be more crumbly: their protein foundation has been depleted…but they taste great!
Sooooo…. Now what? I decided to adapt a recipe I had that is good with “stringy” cheese. It is a spinach/artichoke/Queso/Parmesan mixture combined with garlic and red peppers, and it turned out great! This can be made ahead of time and can easily be warmed or re-warmed in a microwave. It is best served with a sturdy bread…it’s a bit too dense for tortilla chips
I have attached the recipes that I have come up with for your lovely cheese.
PLEASE TRY THEM OUT!!!
I say this because (I feel) that you need to have a first hand knowledge of the things on your web site, or of the recipes or samples you hand out at stores or farmers markets.
I hope that I have helped you guys, and I hope you like what I have come up with!
Greg, the Intern
Look for these recipes on our new “recipe” tab at the top of our menu bar. If you have ideas for how to use our cheeses and/or would like to share recipes with us, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.