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Mexican recipes featuring artisanal cheese

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

A Latin chef's tips & recipes

From cheesy chicken tamales to spicy cheese fondue for chips, cheese is one of the most delicious ingredients in Latin cuisine, particularly when the cheese is rich with authentic Latin flavor and made artisanally. Chef Michelle Bernstein-Martinez, owner of Miami-based restaurant Michy's (among others) and author of Cuisine á Latiná, shares her favorite cooking tips and recipes featuring Mexican-style cheese.

ManchegoWhy the best cheese matters

Using the best cheese in any dish will deliver superiorly delicious results. Cheese made with the highest-quality ingredients boasting rich flavor and easy meltability can turn the most basic recipes into knee-weakening meals.

 

James Beard Award Winner Chef Bernstein-Martinez, a Jewish-Latina who has literally changed the face of Latin cuisine, says "When cooking, it is all about having the best ingredients. As a general rule, you should always cook with natural cheese, as it offers a wide variety of flavors and tends to melt better."

 

Cheese inspires new recipes and flavors

Having a variety of high-quality cheeses on hand provides many tasty opportunities to create new flavors in a homecook's everyday meals. "Oftentimes, moms will have a few go-to dishes that they prepare on a routine basis or when they are short on other ideas," explains the Latin culinary maven. "The great thing about cheese is that if you create a lot of chicken dishes for example, adding a few other high-quality ingredients, like natural cheese, can change the overall flavor of the meal in just a few simple steps."

 

Cooking with cheese lends many culinary advantages

With the wide array of artisanal cheeses available at the supermarket or deli, homecooks never have to cook the same meal twice. Also, as a bonus, modest amounts of cheese can be a part of your healthy diet. Chef Bernstein-Martinez, a former ballerina who is passionate about following a healthy lifestyle, advises, "Whether making a meal or preparing a snack, natural cheese should be a staple ingredient to consider. Natural cheese offers an almost endless supply of meal options, while also providing much of your daily recommended amounts of protein and calcium."

 

Mexican cheese makes all the difference in Mexican meals

Including cheese in many of her dishes, Chef Bernstein-Martinez is always looking for new varieties. "One of my favorites is Sargento Artisan Blends Authentic Mexican Cheese, since it features Manchego, Anejo Enchilado, Queso Gallego, Queso Quesadilla and Asadero cheeses in one unique blend. The combination of these cheeses offers authentic Mexican flavors and it melts easily into favorite traditional dishes like Cheesy Chicken Tamales and Spicy Cheese Fondue for Chips." A truly convenient way for homecooks to prepare Mexican meals that taste the way Mexican cuisine should taste.

 

Mexican recipes featuring cheese

Here are three of Chef Bernstein-Martinez's favorite Mexican recipes featuring Artisan Blends Authentic Mexican Cheese from Sargento. Ideal for everyday meals as well as Cinco de Mayo celebrations, not only are the Latin chef's recipes authentic in flavor, they are also quite easy to prepare. For more of Chef Bernstein-Martinez's signature recipes, visit Sargento.com.

 

Cheesy Chicken Tamales

Cheesy Chicken Tamales

Makes 32 small tamales

 

Ingredients:
1 (8-ounce) package dried corn husks
3 cups masa harina
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2-1/2 cups chicken broth or stock
8 ounces Sargento Artisan Blends Shredded Authentic Mexican Cheese
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
3 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken
3/4 cup tomatillo salsa

 

Directions:
1. Soak corn husks in warm water to cover. Combine masa, baking powder and salt in a food processor and pulse once to combine. Add shortening and pulse several times to combine. Add broth and process until well combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and stir in cheese and cilantro.

 

2. Combine chicken and salsa; mixing well. Drain corn husks. Spread 2 tablespoons of the masa mixture on the smooth side of a corn husk in the center of the husk, spreading slightly with back of spoon, leaving a border around all sides of corn husk.

 

3. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the chicken mixture over the masa and top with 1 more tablespoon masa. Fold the two long sides of the husk toward the middle over masa mixture, folding bottom and top of the husk over filling, encasing filling completely. Tie with a strand of corn husk.

 

4. Stand the tamales on end in a large steamer set over simmering water. Cover and steam for 40 to 45 minutes or until the tamales separate easily from the husk.

 

Spicy Cheese Fondue for Chips

 

Spicy Cheese Fondu

Makes about 1-1/2 cups

 

Ingredients:
1 cup heavy cream
Salt to taste (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup Sargento Artisan Blends Shredded Authentic Mexican Cheese
Tortilla chips

 

Directions:
Heat heavy cream in saucepan on high. Add spices and season with salt, if desired. Add cheese and stir until melted. Remove from heat and serve warm with tortilla chips.

 

Meatballs with Chorizo and Cheese

 

Meatballs with Chorizo and Cheese

Makes 64 appetizers or 8 main dish servings

 

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 cups minced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound chorizo sausage, casings removed
8 ounces Sargento Artisan Blends Shredded Authentic Mexican Cheese
1 cup soft breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 cups spicy marinara or pasta sauce

 

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

 

2. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients except pasta sauce. Add onion mixture and mix well. Shape heaping tablespoons of meat mixture into small balls and place on a large foil-lined baking sheet. Cook in oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until browned and cooked through.

 

3. Place meatballs in two large skillets. Spoon 1 cup pasta sauce over meatballs in each skillet. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Turn meatballs over, cover and continue cooking for 5 to 8 minutes or until meatballs and sauce are heated through. Serve as an appetizer with toothpicks or as a main dish served over rice or pasta.

 

More cheesy Mexican recipes to sink your teeth into:

Family-style Mexican recipes 
Cinco de Mayo recipes and menu ideas

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