Queso Flameado

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Queso Flameado
Story and Photos by Larry Machado 

Kevin Alaniz does not cook often-yet he is an awesome chef, due to his ability to make queso flamed.

He is confident that if anyone were to taste it, they would think he were an awesome chef, too.

About the only thing more puzzling than Alaniz’s mastery of queso flameado is how simple he made it look in its preparation.

Originally from southern Texas, Alaniz comes from a home of educators, where both his parents are involved in teaching at his hometown, Brownsville, Texas.

Alaniz, a junior majoring in communications at St. Mary’s University, also plans on becoming involved in teaching–“the family business” as he calls it–after he graduates.

After high school, Alaniz felt that a small family environment was key in choosing a college which is why he chose St. Mary’s.

Aside from cooking and eating queso flameado, Alaniz’s favorite food is the potato.

He says that he eats and enjoys any type of potato regardless of how it is prepared: fried, baked, mashed or smashed.

Yet, the reason why he chose queso flameado to share is because it is simple to prepare and good to eat–and, most importantly it is a cultural dish with Hispanic ties.

Despite his love for potatoes and his respect for queso flameado, Alaniz interestingly would not select either of these if he were stranded on an island and could only choose one food item to eat for an entire year.

The winner of this battle would be macaroni and cheese. Yes! The ol’ mac and cheese combo.

In fact, mac and cheese wasn’t his first reply to the question, rather, Alaniz asked if Dr. Pepper would count as a food item?

Perhaps this satirical confusion stems from how he views food and the cooking process as a whole.

Alaniz claims that, by nature, he is a very structured and organized person and why he enjoys cooking (when he actually does cook) is because it allows him to break away from his mold of organization.

In fact, one of Alaniz’s most memorable moments involving food–hilariously and ironically–stems from a total lack of structure.

One day when attempting to bake a cake, Alaniz accidentally added a wrong ingredient. Instead of using all-purpose flour, he added powdered sugar.

As a result, “The cake never cooked,” he says.

While this was an embarrassing moment, Alaniz also has some fond memories of cooking as well; some of Alaniz’s most cherished memories involve him and his father making tortillas from scratch using grandma’s recipe.

Alaniz rates his queso flameado four out of five stars and offers the reader this bit of advice when preparing the dish: “Plan on making more because it is so good you won’t be able to stop yourselves from getting seconds.”

Ingredients

  • 1 package of Mexican Chorizo
  • 4 oz of Oaxaca melting cheese
  • 1/2 chile habañero
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 package of tortillas
  • 1 bushel of fresh cilantro (optional)

Directions
Preheat oven to 325°F. Cook 3 links of chorizo (take out of plastic casing) in an cast iron skillet until browned. Make sure to break apart the chorizo using your cooking spoon, until it looks like ground hamburger meat. (Approximately 3-5 minutes). Remove most of the grease from pan; however, leave a small amount in there. The small amount of leftover grease will be used to sauté the onions and chile habañero in the next step. Slice 1/2 of an onion finely, as well as, 1/2 of a chile habanero and add to the pan with the chorizo and leftover grease. Cook all contents together until both the onions and chile are sauteed, and then remove from flame. Cut the Oaxaca cheese into cubes about 1 inch in size and place into the skillet with the contents. Mix well. Place the cast iron skillet into the oven until contents are bubbling (approximately 5-10 minutes). While waiting for contents to bubble, begin warming up tortillas. Remove contents and serve immediately in tacos preferably using two spoons to scoop up your gooey queso. Makes 6 servings.

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