We probably don’t need to tell you that the orange stuff oozing out of a Taco Bell burrito is not real Mexican cheese. But even among self-proclaimed cheese aficionados, you’d be hard pressed to find many that can name more than a few authentic Mexican cheeses off the bat. So while waiting for your quesadillas to turn crispy on the stove, why not brush up on the delicious varieties that our neighbors to the South have to offer. Here’s an easy one to start you off: Cotija de Montaña.
Cotija is a raw milk cheese named after the town of Cotija, where it is traditionally produced. When the cheese is fresh, its consistency resembles feta, but after at least seven months of aging, Cotija becomes denser, saltier, and crumblier. It is most often used in crumbling over soups, salads, tostadas, and chile. Think of it as having similar applications as parmesan, but for a different cuisine.
Cotija lends a brightness and zest to dishes that is perfect for summertime. Our favorite seasonal applications? Anything with corn, of course — try these Plantain Chips with Grilled Corn Esquites, Monterey Jack, and Cotija, Grilled Corn with Cotija Cheese and Lime, or Mexican-Style Street Corn Dip.
Remember, Cotija is just the tip on the proverbial iceberg of delicious Mexican cheeses. To further improve your Mexican cheese knowledge, take notes from co-founder of Lactography and Mexican cheese expert, Carlos Yescas. Happy international cheesing!
Photo by Karoline Boehm Goodnick for The Boston Globe