Tag Archives: cheddar

Pumpkin quesa-different.

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Photograph by Sam Armocido

Think of your favorite recipe. The one you’ve made for years. It’s flavors are burned on your tastebuds. You can recreate it from sense memory. Go into your kitchen and prepare it, writing down each step and each ingredient. Grab the cookbook off the shelf and let it fall open it to the familiar, splattered and stained page.

Surprise.

Even the recipes we know best change over time as our palates and our dinner partners, the markets we shop from and the popularity of ingredients evolves. Bland canned tomatoes give way to San Marzanos, or fresh stewed. Cayenne is replaced with smoky chipotle, ancho or complex Piment d’Espelette. Children demand simpler flavors, new boyfriends or wives shape your meals with their own experiences and preferences.

One year ago I served up sausage and pumpkin quesadillas. This year the heavy blend of cumin, chile powder and Spanish paprika overpowered the sweet hearty Hubbard squash. Chopped tomato brightened the rich flavors with sweetness and acidity. Savory andouille sausage was replaced with equally spicy but less earthy Mexican chorizo.

Change isn’t always good or bad. Sometimes it’s just different. Fortunately in the kitchen, it’s usually delicious.

Pumpkin Chorizo Quesadillas

*A pizza cutter is the best way to slice quesadillas. A knife pushes all the filling out.

Photograph by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 links Mexican (uncooked) Chorizo
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 cups Hubbard or acorn squash purée*
  • 1 tsp Spanish paprika
  • 1 tsp Serrano Chile Honey vinegar**
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tomato, seeded and diced
  • 10-12 6” tortillas

*For squash puree, split and roast squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet, at 400 degrees. When flesh can be easily pierced with a roasting fork, like soft butter, it is done. Let cool, scrape pumpkin from skins and mash.

**I still can’t get enough of this vinegar from Sapore. You can substitute sherry vinegar and 1/2 tsp honey.

Directions:

  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12″ skillet at medium. Remove casings from chorizo and brown meat, crumbling a it cooks. Remove meat with a slotted spoon when fully cooked.
  • Add oil, if needed, to make up 2 tbs fat in the pan, and sauté onion.
  • When onion is soft, add squash purée and heat through. Season with paprika, Serrano Chile Honey vinegar, salt and pepper. Mix sausage into squash.
  • Assemble quesadillas on top of 1 tortilla, layering cheese, squash mixture, diced tomato and finally topping with more cheese and a second tortilla.
  • Cook quesadillas over medium heat, lightly browning both sides. Slice and serve.
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The best freakin’ cheese sauce ever!

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The day I moved in with my grad-school roommates, we discovered a butter compartment in the refrigerator door. Young and foolish, I complained, “why do they still put these in? Who still uses butter?”*  My roommate replied, “It’s the perfect place to store your Velveeta.”

Nodding, while grinding my back teeth in horror, I thought, “That statement pre-supposes Velveeta is always on hand, like a pantry staple.”I have since learned that one’s taste in gooey, drippy, hot, rich, velvety cheese sauce is highly personal. So, when someone asked what makes this cheese sauce the best ever, I ventured forth gingerly.

Classic Mornay is built on a creamy, smooth Béchamel. It gets cheesy richness from sharp cheddar and balance from sharper gruyère. A splash of sherry (not cooking sherry, please) is everything you loved about the ’70’s, while nutmeg, cayenne, white pepper and salt lend subtle complexity.

Unlike Velveeta, there aren’t many ingredients here, so please remember that good butter, fresh milk, and the best cheese you can afford, really count. No offense to Velveeta. (Or my grad school roommate.)

*I know, I know, I may be the most passionate butter evangelist you have ever encountered. I actually refer to my conversion as “the butter story.”

The Best Cheese Sauce You’ve Ever Tasted!

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbs/ 1.5 oz. butter
  • 3 tbs flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • Nutmeg
  • White pepper
  • Salt
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup Gruyère
  • Dry sherry
  • Cayenne

Directions:

  • Melt butter over low heat in a 1 qt saucepan. Stir in flour and cook for 2-3 minutes being careful not to brown.
  • Pour in milk, whisking briskly to avoid lumps.*
  • Cook an additional 15-20 minutes, stirring often, until thickened.
  • Season to taste with nutmeg, white pepper and salt. Go easy on the salt. You will add more from the cheese.
  • Stir in cheese until smooth.
  • Season to taste with dry sherry and cayenne.

*Warming the milk first reduces the risk of lumpy Béchamel.