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Great 28: Cheese + Jicama


cheese and jicama

Jícama might be one of the most underrated root vegetables in our modern diet. Pronounced HEE-ka-mah, the tuber is the edible part of a poisonous vine native to Mexico, and is sometimes called a Mexican turnip (likely because a whole jícama root resembles a turnip). Its crisp, white flesh, which emits a clear or lightly milky juice—depending on whether it’s the jícama de agua (preferred for its rounder shape) or jícama de leche variety—is covered with papery, bark-like skin.

High in fiber and “good” carbohydrates and low in fat, starchy jícama is more versatile than many home cooks realize. Once it’s peeled, it can be prepared and consumed in a number of ways, from raw to roasted, and things only get better once cheese enters the mix.

Raw Jícama

Because jícama grows in temperate climates and is very sensitive to frost, it has found a niche in tropical cuisines, including Mexican, Filipino, Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Thai. It’s often eaten the way a green mango is—raw and sprinkled with salt, squirted with lime or vinegar, smeared with shrimp paste, or coated with pungent spices that enhance its sweet flavor. Its refreshing water content (about 90 percent) makes the root a great addition to a crudités platter packed with delicate, spreadable cheeses, especially Boursin’s cranberry-spice flavor, which offers a piquant, tangy fruitiness when paired with jícama.

With its snappy crunch, jícama is also a terrific foil for intensely flavored cheddars like Yancey’s Hatch Chile Cheddar. In fact, if you cut the jícama into thin rounds, the slices can even serve as gluten-free crackers for this semi-firm cheese.

Recommended Pairings 
Boursin Cranberry and Spice Gournay + raw jícama
Yancey’s Fancy Hatch Chile Cheddar + raw jícama

Jícama Slaw

When planed or julienned with carrots, bell peppers, cabbage, and onions, jícama performs like a pro. A sprinkle of cheese mixed into the slaw takes it to the next level. The choice of cheese depends on the dressing: If the base is mayonnaise, try crumbling a soft, creamy blue over it—the mouthfeel is a nice counter-point to the incisive crispness of the salad.

If a vinaigrette is used to bind, however, with either sugar, agave, or honey in the blend, then something with bite, like a Welsh Y Fenni, is ideal. Sold under the name Red Dragon, this firm cow’s milk cheddar is formulated with brown ale and mustard seeds, then aged for three months. The zing of the mustard seeds, which also add a touch of crackly texture, enliven jícama-based slaw, taking it from side dish to centerpiece.

Recommended Pairings
Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses Blacksticks Blue + jícama slaw
Red Dragon + jícama slaw

Jícama Fries

Whether you bake them in an oven or drop them into heaving hot oil, fries made out of jícama are delicious. Once cooked, jícama tastes a little nuttier, making cheese pairings easier. If you’re looking for something rich and earthy—always a winner with fries—there’s a whole realm of raclette to dive into, including the Baechler Summer Truffle Raclette. Studded with black summer truffles, you can’t find a wheel with more umami. Melt it onto jícama fries, and be surprised at how good it tastes to break from tradition.

Whether you bake them in an oven or drop them into heaving hot oil, fries made out of jícama are delicious. Once cooked, jícama tastes a little nuttier, making cheese pairings easier. If you’re looking for something rich and earthy—always a winner with fries—there’s a whole realm of raclette to dive into, including the Baechler Summer Truffle Raclette. Studded with black summer truffles, you can’t find a wheel with more umami. Melt it onto jícama fries, and be surprised at how good it tastes to break from tradition

Recommended Pairings
Fromagerie Baechler Summer Truffle Raclette + jícama fries
Cacique Enchilado + jícama fries

Photography by Brent Hofacker

The Great 28 is featured in our annual Cheese Pairings issue

Jen Karetnick

Based in Miami, Jen Karetnick is the author, co-author, or editor of 15 books, including the award-winning cookbook Mango (University Press of Florida, 2014). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Atlantic, Guernica, Southern Living, and more.

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