Tacos de Queso Fresco

Our 9-year-old works with us on the weekends and he is really into making food. Sometimes I have to let go and just let him experiment freely. Like the time he thought more orange extract was better in his cake. I told him it wasn’t, but he said he wanted to try it anyways…as you can imagine that cake tasted like an orange peel. He was so stubborn that he still ate some of it. Later that night without going into details, it was really bad and we have yet to use orange extract again, ha. As a parent it’s hard to let go, though like in all things you learn by making mistakes and who knows maybe there will be some happy accidents. This recipe is great to make with kids plus there is a fun chemistry lesson with the separation of casein (milk protein) by adding the acid (lemon).

Hope you get to make this even without kiddos, it’s a fun alternative, doesn’t take much time and it tastes so good!!

TACOS DE QUESO FRESCO

Serves 6 -8 tacos

Ingredients

Queso Fresco

1 gallon of whole milk

Juice of 6 lemons

¼ tbsp sea salt (or to taste)

(cheese cloth)

SALSA NEGRA
1 cup avocado oil
15 chiles de arbol
3 guajillo
15 roasted garlic cloves (2 whole) * read note on how to make them
2 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 tbsp of light brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cumin

TOPPINGS
Grilled Cactus Paddles (nopales)
Sliced Figs
Olive Oil

We used Yoli’s Special Batch: Everything. Will work great with any of the corn varieties.

DIRECTIONS

QUESO FRESCO
Bring your milk into a gentle simmer, temperature should reach between 165-180 (use a thermometer). Once you reach that temperature, add your lemon juice 1 tbsp at a time and stir gently. You will soon start seeing it curd up and keep on going until you complete putting in all the lemon juice. Continue to gently stir as the clumps form for another minute then turn off the heat. Let it sit between 5 – 20 minutes until the curds are well formed. Next with as slotted spoon transfer to a bowl that has 4 layers of cheese cloth. Once you have completed your transfer sprinkle your salt and if you wanted this is when you could add crushed red pepper or chives, etc. gently mix and now wrap it into a ball with your cheesecloth squeezing gently all the excess water. I put a colander over a bowl and put the cheese cloth over it and let it sit for an hour. Unwrapped it and put in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap. It is now ready to use for your tacos.

SALSA NEGRA
There are many versions of this salsa, though I like this one as its lighter than if you were going to use raw garlic mixed in. First, stem your peppers and place them in a pot with the oil. Be careful as avocado oil gets hot fairly fast, so turn them around and keep an eye on it. Once you get brown spots all around – remove from heat and let it cool down. Next, once cooled down add to a food processor the chile / oil mix, roasted garlic, vinegar, sugar and cumin. Pulse until is your desired consistency. Transfer to a bowl and its ready to be used.

*Garlic note, I roast large batches of garlic and then save them in my fridge. I roast about 20 -30 garlics wrapped in foil at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let them cool down. When you need to use them, slice the bottom and squeeze out what you want to use.

I did 2 types of toppings: figs simply sliced and grilled cactus paddles (nopales). For the cactus paddles, clean them up by holding them carefully with a hot pad or a thick kitchen rag. Going in opposite direction of where the needles are going, slice them off. It looks more daunting that it is…with practice you can get really fast at it. Next, heat up you grill at about 500 – 600. Brush your nopal with olive oil and season with salt. Place on your hot grill for about 4 minutes per side. Remove from grill and slice into slivers.

Heat up your comal or flat pan at a medium-high. Once hot, add your tortillas with a little bit of butter and turn around until evenly heated up (about 10 -15 seconds).

ASSEMBLE
Add your queso fresco and top with your desired topping. Drizzle salsa negra, olive oil and lightly season with salt.

Provecho!