Warm Panela Cheese With Diablo Breakfast Salsa

Cheryl Alters and Bill Jamison


A Real American Breakfast, by Cheryl Alters Jamison & Bill Jamison (William Morrow, an Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2002)

3-4small to medium tomatoes, preferably Roma or plum
6plump garlic cloves, dry-roasted in a skillet until soft
2tablespoons dried ground mild red chile, such as ancho, New Mexican or guajillo
1-2teaspoons ground pasilla de Oaxaca chile or 1 to 2 canned chipolte chiles
½teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
½teaspoon minced fresh epazote or ¼ teaspoon dried, optional
2whole allspice or ¼ teaspoon ground
2cups chicken or vegetable stock
¼cup vegetable oil
salt to taste
vegetable oil for panfrying
1medium onion cut from end to end into thin wedges
1pound panela cheese, cut into 8 equal rectangles, about ¼-½ inch thick, at room temperature
minced fresh cilantro, optional

Prepare the salsa up to a couple of days before you plan to serve the cheese. Preheat the broiler. Place the tomatoes on a small baking sheet, covered with foil for easier cleaning. Broil the tomatoes 15-18 minutes, turning them occasionally, until they are soft and the skins split and turn dark in spots.

Puree the tomatoes (skins, cores and all) with the garlic, both kinds of chile, oregano, epazote, allspice, and stock in a blender.

In a heavy skillet or large saucepan, warm the oil over high heat. Pour in the sauce, being careful to avoid splatters as the liquid hits the hot oil. When the mixture stops its most insistent sputtering, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sauce thickens but still spoons easily. Salt the sauce, then reserve it or cool, cover and refrigerate for later use, warming again before serving.

Coat a heavy skillet, large enough to hold the cheese in a single layer, with a thin film of oil. (If you lack a large enough skillet, cook the onion and half the cheese together, then keep warm while you add a bit more oil to the skillet and cook the remaining cheese.) Warm over medium heat and add the onion wedges, sauteing until soft, about 5 minutes. Push the onion to one side, add the cheese, and cook for about 2 minutes per side, until golden and a bit crusted in spots.

Spoon a pool of sauce onto each plate, then top with equal portions of hot cheese, onion, and, if you wish, a sprinkling of cilantro. Serve immediately.

Recipe serves 4.

Category: Breakfast