Tres Quesos

Tres quesos — cotija, Asadero and queso blanco. These are some of the more important cheeses in the family of Mexican cheeses. They each lend a flavorful dimension to various dishes ranging from appetizers and pizza to pasta and salads. Even more, considering the popularity of Mexican and Latin dishes, these three cheeses have a place in any style of restaurant or café. All three are made from cow’s milk. Generally speaking, the flavor of each one is mild, light, and fresh tasting.

Asadero is a slightly tangy cheese that I would compare in some fashion to provolone (though definitely not as firm or as sharp in taste). It is a great melting cheese, so you will often see it used for nachos or quesadillas. An Italian restaurant in Chicago serves “Italian Nachos,” and uses a blend of shredded provolone and Asadero as the melting cheese.

Cotija, also known as queso anejado (or “aged cheese”), has a family resemblance to the Greek feta and Italian Parmesan. Flavor characteristics: slightly salty and mildly tangy (flavor varies a bit relative to the maker or brand). This is the cheese that you will usually see grated over pizza, soups, salads and tacos.

Queso blanco is the generic term for fresh white cheese. The flavor is rather mild. Texture is soft. This cheese softens nicely when subjected to heat (and the heat helps to develop the cheese’s rather mild flavor).

Three-Cheese Mexican Brunch Pizza

In this recipe, considering the variety of textures and counterpoints of flavor that each cheese offers, there is an unusual yet enticing aroma to the baked pizza that lovers of Latin or Mexican food will find quite enjoyable. This is a great brunch or breakfast pizza and would be a great addition to any restaurant or café that serves breakfast all day. You can also use this pizza quite effectively on a lunch buffet, since it keeps well after baking.

Yield: 1 14-inch pizza. Recipe can be scaled up in direct proportion.

1 14-inch pizza shell
3/4 pound chorizo, crumbled
6 medium eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup refried beans, thinned with 1 tablespoon warm water
3/4 cup bottled medium-hot salsa
1/4 pound asadero cheese, crumbled
1/4 pound cotija cheese, finely chopped
1/4 pound queso blanco, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

• Cook the chorizo, crumbling it even more as you go, into a sauté pan until it has given off most of its fat. Drain fat from the pan. Transfer the chorizo to a plate.

• In that same skillet cook the eggs, scrambling them until almost cooked through. Keep them a bit on the wet side. Set aside.

• Spread the refried beans evenly over the pizza to 1-inch from the edge of the crust.

• Spread the salsa over the beans.

• Evenly spread the reserved chorizo over the salsa, followed by the reserved eggs, spreading the eggs as evenly as possible.

• In a small bowl, combine the three cheeses. Sprinkle the cheeses over the eggs.

• Bake the pizza until the three cheeses melt into the eggs and the crust is toasty brown. Sprinkle the cilantro over the top just before cutting and serving.

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