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Posts Tagged ‘spicy tomato sauce’

I must have driven my mom nuts with my quest to find the ultimate Queso Fundido in Merida. I was first turned on to the dish from a Rick Bayless “Mexico: One Plate at a Time” episode. He was on scene in Merida at a restaurant I couldn’t find and they served him this big dish of Dutch cheese stuffed with chorizo and drowned in a spicy tomato sauce. Somehow I got the name of the dish screwed up. I had first thought it was called Queso Relleno, then, for whatever reason I thought it was Queso Fundido. Credit that to me mis-browsing Bayless’s website. In season 4 he featured Queso Fundido, in season 5 it was the Queso Relleno that I was really after.

At any rate, I asked a couple of Meridaians (is that a word?) where they go for Queso Fundido. A waiter at one restaurant mentioned a place that my mom and step-dad have been to. Then, when we were at Mayapan, there was a small group of college students touring archeological sites and their local guide was from Merida. So, I asked him and he said, “go to El Fogoncito“. So, that’s where we headed.

Turns out that there are two El Fogoncito’s in Merida, so we went to the one closest to my mom’s house. Much to our disappointment it was located in a brand new modern mall. The atmosphere was so generic we could have been at a TGI Friday’s (turns out that it’s also a major food worldwide food chain, no surprise). No culture whatsoever. But, they do have Queso Fundido con chorizo.

I was a little worried because it was priced about half of what everyone elses entrees were. Was this a meal or an appetizer? When it showed up it was a small earthenware dish filled with melted cheese, chunks of chorizo, and a couple of flour tortillas. It was definitely not a main dish. It was, however, absolutely delicious! I mean, let’s be honest here, it was melted cheese and chorizo. I scarfed that thing down like it was nothing. Since it was an appetizer I was still hungry afterwords.

Seeing that they served Tacos al Pastor, I really had no choice but to order a couple. Not quite as good as the one I ate at the San Benito Market, but still pretty good. These were served more traditionally with onions, jalapeno, cilantro, and a slice of pineapple.

With plenty of room in my belly for dessert I also had to order the flan. This one was clearly not as good as the flan I had in Cozumel’s Sabores. You could definitely taste the love put into that homemade flan that this one lacked as this one was more mass-produced. The texture was a little more jelloey than flan should be and I’m not a big fan of the maraschino cherry on top (save that for lame cocktails), but overall it wasn’t that bad.

I didn’t get the dish I was after, but that was no one’s fault but my own. I guess I’ll have to bother the hell out of my mom about it again next time I’m in Merida. Sorry mom.

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Meatless Monday continues. I went back to my days in Egypt for last night’s dinner. In Dahab, as in many parts of Egypt, they eat a dish called Koshary as a quick lunch. It’s usually sold from street vendors as opposed to restaurants. In Dahab, my dive shop was on the far north end of the bay. The Koshary guy, much like Chicago’s ice cream bike guys, came from the north so I always got the freshest Koshary. Besides Koshary, he also sold rice pudding, but I’d usually wait and get that for dessert as it was sweeter.

Koshary is a bowl filled with crazy goodness. Rice on the bottom, spaghetti noodles on top of that, lentils on top of that, all covered with spicy tomato sauce, then topped with chickpeas, and finally garnished with fried onions. All for about 30 cents ( in Egypt, it cost about $2.00 per serving last night).

I didn’t make a pure Koshary though. First thing I did was dice up a medium eggplant and let it sit in a colander with some salt for about a half hour. Then I rinsed it and dried it. This takes away some of the fruit’s bitterness. After that I sauted a chopped onion in some olive oil for about 4 minutes with a few chopped garlic cloves. I ground up about a teaspoon of coriander seeds with my pestle and mortar and added that along with about a teaspoon each of cumin and cinnamon. Then I added the eggplant chunks and let them cook for about 5 more minutes. I dumped in a 28 0z can of chopped tomatoes, seasoned with salt and pepper, then let simmer over a medium heat for about 15 minutes. After that I added a can of chickpeas and let everything simmer for another 15 minutes so that the tomato juices would reduce down to a thicker stew.

While the juices were reducing I friend a thinly sliced onion in extremely hot oil with some sliced garlic. The garlic burns quickly, but as long as you don’t eat it the aroma infuses the onion. You don’t want to burn the onion, but you want a nice crisp texture. Once their cooked set them aside on a small plate.

To serve, instead of throwing everything in a bowl, I put the rice on the side and ladled the stew next to it. I garnished it with the fried onions and some cilantro and had a mixed green salad along side.

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