Ooooookay, third time’s a charm. The hamsters are no longer farking @&%*#~ animals. They are officially the “adored cute loveable little SDMB hamsters.”
Once more with feeling:
The cheese you are looking for is mentioned in the second recipe. Known as Queso Asadero, it is similar to a very mild Monterey Jack. To get a true cheese sauce style dip, as opposed to merely a melted cheese glop, you will first need to make a white sauce. I believe this is part of a problem the author is trying to address in dealing with the issue of different types of Asadero cheese.
Cheese made with whole milk will have an undoubtedly richer flavor and texture. It is precisely in this area of texture that the problems begin. Milk contains long protein chains in the form of caseins, this is the white (non-water) part of milk. When heated, proteins tend to contract and fold up. This is why an egg’s albumen (white part) shrinks and goes from clear to cloudy white during the cooking process. The same thing will happen with cheese during the melting process. Upon heating, the milk proteins will tend to fold and interlock. This produces the traditional stringiness seen in hot pizza and undesirable clumping in poorly constructed cheese sauces.
To defeat this complication, the milk proteins need to be distributed among another substance that will discourage their tendency to interconnect. This is where the white sauce comes in. Made with finely ground starch (e.g., flour), it will tend to coat and interpose itself in order to inhibit the coagulation of the cheese. The other way to do this is by using a cheaper grade of cheese (i.e., one made with skim milk). This is where Velveeta has made its reputation and why it remains so popular despite its low quality.
To give your Asadero based Queso Blanco sauce an authentic flavor consider adding the following ingredients:
Rajas de Jalapeño: These are pickled Jalapeño chiles. They have a fantastic flavor and are a truly authentic Mexican note to add into your dish. You should rinse them off under some running water to avoid introducing any of the vinegar based pickling juice. This could possibly curdle the dairy ingredients and lead to clumping or worse. Be sure to open the body of the pepper to release any pickling juice held inside. Discard the seeds and membranes therein. For even more heat (and flavor), consider using rajas de Serranos. While quite a bit hotter, Serrano peppers have a fabulous perky taste that will enliven your recipe. If you are cooking for people with delicate taste buds, the heat may be toned down by using Ortega brand roasted Anaheim chile peppers. Drain them carefully and reserve the juice to add at the last minute. The juice contains no vinegar and will give the dish a wonderful roasted chile flavor.
Onion: The linked recipe mentions adding chopped onion. Raw onion has a distinctly sulfurous note to it. To avoid this, be sure to “sweat” the onion before adding it. Do this by warming it in a separate pan over very low heat with a small amount of butter or oil. DO NOT brown the onion at all, merely allow it to go clear before draining off any liquid and adding it to the cheese sauce. For the smoothest and most subtle flavor, pulp the onion using a fine tooth grater and sweat this mass before adding it to the sauce. For the most authentic appearance and taste be sure to use only white onion. Mexican cuisine uses them almost exclusively in most recipes.
Garlic: For a deep and complex flavor, I would recommend adding a very small clove of garlic. You should not be able to identify it in the finished product. Add too much and you will lose the delicate taste of the cheese. Like onion, garlic should be sweated as well. Garlic browns much more quickly, so be sure to add it during the last few minutes of cooking the onion. Never brown the garlic or it will take on a very undesirable bitter flavor. The garlic should be crushed with a garlic press before being added to the pan. Remember, the longer your recipe sits, the more any added garlic will come to the forefront. Use only one small to medium clove per pint or quart of the sauce.
If you want to go completely mui authentico old style Mexican, you’ll need a molcajete. This is the traditional three legged stone mortar you see in every señora’s kitchen. Grind the garlic into a paste using some vegetable oil and salt. You may also pulp the chopped onion this way if you desire a terrific upper-body workout.
Spices: To obtain the correct flavor, add some powdered cumin and salt to taste. Depending upon whether you wish to preserve the pristine white color of your sauce, you may also feel free to add between one teaspoon and a tablespoon of chopped cilantro leaves. You may substitute ground coriander, but it will not have the same delightfully bitter top note as the cilantro. You may also wish to add a little tingle using a dash or three of good quality hot sauce. I recommend Louisiana Crystal or a similar product. Even better would be a green Jalapeño sauce like, Louisiana brand green label. This is different from Crystal and is one of my favorites.
Garnish: For an attractive bandera de Mexico (Mexican flag) decoration, distribute the following ingredients in three equal stripes going from left to right on top of the bowl of queso blanco:
Left: Chopped cilantro leaf (adjust recipe accordingly)
Center: Finely ground cotilla* cheese
Right: Chopped seeded and peeled ripe tomato
Position a tomato peel rose, bracketed by cilantro sprigs for leaves in the center of the middle white stripe for an elaborate embellishment.
- Cotilla is a delightfully dry Mexican counterpart of Parmesan cheese. If you are unable to obtain this ingredient, substitute a swath of high quality sour cream (preferrably, authentic Mexican crema).
IMPORTANT NOTE: To ensure the optimum flavor, please serve this dip with yellow corn tortilla chips. Make certain that the chips use ground yellow corn and not corn flour or meal. If you make your own chips from yellow corn tortillas, be sure to let them dry in the open air for a few hours before frying them. Your chips will brown quicker and be more crisp.
I recommend using the rajas de Jalapeño (or Serrano), pulped onions, crushed garlic, chopped cilantro leaves, white pepper, salt and a little cumin. The Tex-Mex recipe buried in the second link specifies adding two entire teaspoons of ground cumin. I strongly recommend against this unless you are rather fond of the flavor. Cumin can dominate even the most spicy recipe rather quickly. Add cumin very gradually at first, remembering that the longer this recipe sits the more pronounced any cumin flavor will become.
Avoid any attempt to reheat this sauce. It should be served immediately upon completion in the kitchen. The partially finished white sauce (without any cheese added) may be made a day ahead of time. One note about the roux. Since you wish to make a white cheese sauce, it is advisable to lightly cook the roux. Do not brown it completely in order to avoid coloring your sauce too much. Remember, that a less cooked roux retains more thickening power than one which has been browned completely. To obtain its full thickening properties, a roux must be brought to a boil after being thinned with the dairy. Do this over an extremely low heat to avoid scorching or lumping. Add the cheese and spices only after the roux has thickened the sauce. Remember that the sauce should be slightly runny in order for it to assume the correct texture once the cheese has been added.
Be sure to add all ground spices during the last ten minutes of cooking. Prolonged heating destroys the essential oils of many herbs and spices. If you are obliged to prepare this recipe well ahead of time, consider using a bain Marie or double boiler pan. Its well controlled temperature will avoid scorching or lumping.
For the cheese sauce below, add the following amounts of ingredients mentioned above:
2-4 Tbs Sweated white onion pulp
1-3 Tbs Chopped and seeded rajas de Jalapeño (or Serrano)
1-2 Tbp Chopped fresh cilantro leaves
¼-½ Tbs Powdered cumin
½-1 Tsp dash of green Jalapeño hot sauce
1 Small to medium crushed and sweated clove of garlic
Here is the recipe for a basic cheese sauce:
Makes around 2 cups
1 Cup grated cheese
2-4 Tbs white flour
1/2-1 Cup half and half or milk
1/2 Cube butter
1/8 Tsp ground white pepper
Salt to taste
Make a roux with the butter and flour (see below). After the roux has relaxed, turn the heat back on to low and very slowly add the milk or half and half. It is better to allow the roux to return to room temperature before proceeding. While adding the milk, stir constantly over very low heat to avoid lumping. You are basically making a thin pudding. Once the dairy is incorporated, slowly add the cheese. Do not allow the sauce to boil or it will break and become stringy. If the sauce breaks, you will need to make some more roux into white sauce and bind the broken mixture with it. Once the cheese is completely melted, add the white pepper and adjust salt to taste.
This cheese sauce is wonderful over broccoli or cauliflower. It is also great for nachos and twice baked potatoes (or “potato skins”). I have been able to get even the most finicky child to try vegetables once this sauce has been slathered on them.
How to make a Roux:
Over low heat, melt the butter in a sauce pan and add the flour. Stir well until completely mixed. If the roux is too dry, add some more butter. If it is too wet, add more flour. The final mixture should not run in the pan and yet still be semi-liquid. Allow mixture to cook for about fifteen minutes. The flour should begin to brown and have a nut like aroma. Continue to stir and make sure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the flour has taken on a tawny color, shut off the heat and allow the roux to “relax” for another ten to fifteen minutes. This is a critical step whereby the flour granules “bloom” and lose their gritty texture.