As a sports fan, you sometimes run into this weird politeness you usually only encounter when talking about politics with extended relatives. You don’t express your true beliefs, you couch your words carefully as not to come off as arrogant or rude, and you certainly don’t make proclamations. You often find yourself not lying about your beliefs, but also not being completely honest either. You will feign weakness when you truly feel strong.
Rivalry weeks when the outcome is unsure for either side of the field.
I bring this up because last week during the run-up to the Steelers-Patriots game, I had several conversations with friends who happen to also be New England fans. (Good friends are accepting despite each others’ failings in team allegiances.) During each one of those conversations, every party involved pulled the old, “Oh, I don’t feel good about this game. [X] has been under-performing, your [Y] looks much stronger this year.”
I feigned humility. I did it on this very site, pretending to feel only a modicum of hope on Thursday and worrying about Bruce Arians on Friday. Maybe I was worried about a jinx saying I felt good about the game or worse, stupid if I came out and said I thought the Steelers would win against the Patriots.
Is it pouring salt into the wound to say I thought the team was going to win only after they won?
I bring this up because it’s Steelers-Ravens week and I am truly terrified, and because now the Patriots have every reason to blow the Steelers out if they face each other in the playoffs. So if you hear me say over the next few days, “I’m really worried about this game,” know that I really mean it.
Seared Queso Blanco
Mozzarella sticks are problematic.
While great in a bar, mozzarella sticks are a ton more work when you’re at home. First, you have to make sure you get a good mozzarella that will hold up to frying. Then you have to bread them. Then fry them with a ton of oil, or worse, try to bake them in the oven where they inevitably melt into goo. Then they pretty much only taste like whatever marinara or ranch you pair them with for snacking. A lot of work for very little reward. Which is why my favorite fried cheesy snack to make at home is queso blanco.
Queso blanco is a type of farmers cheese with a very, very moisture content that unlike most cheeses, does not melt or string when heated. It becomes soft on the inside while developing a nice crusty shell on the outside without any sort coating on it whatsoever. When you bite into seared queso blanco, it squeaks like a fresh cheese curd and rewards you with a buttery creaminess found in only some the best mild cheeses.
Plus, it only takes about five minutes to make.
When buying queso blanco, make sure you are buying, well, queso blanco. Often in here in the US you will find the term queso fresco mistakenly used in place of queso blanco — including by such institutions as Bon Appetit, who should really know better — when they really are quite different cheeses. Queso fresco, while also being a cheese that does not fully melt, has a higher moisture content and instead of getting nice crust when heated, becomes a soft puddle of cheese in the pan.
Queso fresco easily crumbles while queso blanco is a very firm cheese, as seen in the picture below, so if you’re not entirely sure your cheese monger has the correct label in the case, ask for a sample to feel for water content and firmness.
This is not to queso fresco is a bad cheese. No, I love it. Have a recipe that uses it and chiles planned for later in the season. It just doesn’t work here. The only other cheese that can be used instead of queso blanco for this task is queso para freir, a cheese often associated with Puerto Rican cooking and in my experience, really hard to find.
You will need:
1/2 pound queso blanco
Vegetable oil, optional
1 pound is pictured here since I bought enough for snacks a couple of different nights during the World Series. But go ahead, make a whole pound of fried cheese at once. I’m not going to stop you.
Why is vegetable oil optional? If you’re searing the cheese in a non-stick pan, you really don’t need it. Since I heat this cheese in my cast iron skillet, I use about half a tablespoon of oil.
Cut the queso blanco into squares.
Heat the pan to medium-high and sear the queso blanco for a minute or so on each side.
Turn as each side browns. Don’t worry if you don’t quite get all the edges, it’s hard to do.
Drain on paper towels.
Serve with your favorite taqueria type salsa for dipping. The mildly salty cheese holds up well against spicy chipotle and chili salsas, while providing a nice balance to the heat.
Studley’s jumped out to a whopping seven-point lead in the CFB Football Foodie Pick’em Pool, while Skippy Reed continues to hold on to her one point lead over Pretty Girls and Waffles in the NFL Football Foodie Pick’em Pool. Competition is so tight in the NFL pool, it’s only a couple of points difference between first and tenth place, so that lead could break any which way over the next few weeks.
- ½ pound queso blanco or queso para freir
- Vegetable oil, optional
- Cut the queso blanco into squares.
- Heat the pan to medium-high (with oil if required) and sear the queso blanco.
- Turn as each side browns. Don't worry if you don't quite get all the edges, it's hard to do.
- Drain on paper towels.
- Serve with your favorite taqueria type salsa for dipping. The mildly salty cheese holds up well against spicy chipotle and chili salsas, while providing a nice balance to the heat.