Featured Wisconsin Cheeses: Queso Oaxaca, Parmesan
I’m a firm believer that adults don’t have enough string cheese in their life, and that North Americans don’t include enough Mexican- inspired cheeses in their culinary repertoire. This recipe is my small attempt to remedy both.
For this mac n’ cheese, I use one of my favorite artisan Mexican style cheeses, called Queso or Quesillo de Oaxaca. This cheese is a pasta filata – pulled-curd style, like Mozzarella or Burrata. After the curds are separated from the whey, they’re heated and then stretched up to 20 feet before they’re wrapped around themselves, most often into a ball shape. Watching craftspeople like Wisconsin’s Cesar and Heydi Louis make this cheese is something else. When made in small production batches, it’s pretty much the best, and possibly the most sophisticated, string cheese in the world. And it’s uber delicious, too (prepare to want to hide the string cheese from your children for the first time in your life).
Clean, fresh, mild and sweet tasting, Queso de Oaxaca tastes like fresh milk and cream and makes threads as long as the Great Wall of China when melted. Almost. It makes this mac n’ cheese good fun.
The Parmesan in this recipe adds a little depth of flavor and the chipotles add a kick. Cut the amount of chiles in the recipe in half if you’re not a fan of strong heat.
Chipotle Mac n’ Cheese
3 tablespoons salted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
½ teaspoon salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces Wisconsin Queso Oaxaca, shredded
6 ounces (1 ½ cups) Parmesan, grated
zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ cup chopped cilantro, loosely packed
2 chipotle peppers (about one ounce) in adobo sauce, minced
10 ounces dried elbow pasta, cooked according to package directions
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cook butter and flour over low heat for 5 minutes in a large heavy bottomed saucepan, stirring the whole time, and being careful to get around the edges of the pan. Add 1/4 cup milk and whisk thoroughly so there are no lumps. Repeat. Add the remainder of the milk, whisk well, bring to a low boil over medium heat, then lower to simmer. Add salt. Cook for seven minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add garlic and the cheeses to the milk. Stir until the cheese is almost melted. Add the lemon zest and juice, cilantro, chipotles and pasta. Stir to mix. Pour into a two-quart casserole dish.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the sauce starts to firm and the top is golden brown and crusty. Remove from oven and wait to let cool for five minutes before serving.
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chipotle, queso oaxaca, spicy
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