Savouring the delights of grilled cheese in the Canary Islands

The Canary Islands' cuisine, rich in cultural influences and natural diversity, offers many specialties, including the celebrated 'queso asado' or grilled cheese. This simple yet delicious dish embodies the flavourful essence of the archipelago's gastronomy.

When it comes to culinary treasures, the Canary Islands boast a diverse and flavourful gastronomy that reflects their unique blend of cultures and landscapes. Among the many delights that the archipelago offers, one dish stands out for its simplicity and delectable taste: ‘queso asado’, or grilled cheese. Let’s dive into the world of this Canarian favourite and discover why it has become a must-try delicacy.

The rich tradition of Canary Islands cheese

Savouring the delights of grilled cheese in the Canary Islands

The story of the ‘queso asado’ begins with the Canarian cheese tradition, which dates back to the arrival of Spanish conquistadors in the 15th century. The favorable climate, fertile soil, and abundant pastures of the islands created ideal conditions for dairy farming. Over the centuries, local cheese production evolved into a cherished culinary art form, with each island developing its unique cheese varieties.

Why grilled cheese is so popular in the Canary Islands

The Canarian grilled cheese has captured the hearts and taste buds of locals and visitors alike for several reasons:

Distinctive flavour: Canarian cheese is known for its exceptional taste, and when it’s grilled to perfection, the flavors intensify. The outer layer caramelizes, creating a delightful contrast of textures and a rich, nutty flavour.

Simple yet satisfying: ‘Queso asado’ showcases the beauty of simplicity. It’s made with minimal ingredients, allowing the quality of the cheese to shine through. The result is a dish that’s easy to love.

Versatility: This dish is incredibly versatile. It can be enjoyed as a standalone appetizer, a topping for potatoes, or even paired with local wines. This adaptability makes it a beloved addition to Canarian menus.

Preparation and presentation

The preparation of ‘queso asado’ is straightforward yet skillful. It typically involves the following steps:

Choosing the cheese: While various Canarian cheeses can be used, the popular choice is often a semi-hard or hard cheese with a rich flavour.

Slicing and grilling: The cheese is sliced into thick pieces and placed on a grill or hotplate. It’s then grilled until the surface becomes golden and slightly crispy.

Serving: ‘Queso asado’ is typically served hot and fresh off the grill. It can be garnished with a drizzle of local honey or a sprinkle of mojo sauce for added flavour.

The star of this dish is a special type of cheese known as “queso de cabra,” which translates to goat cheese. This cheese is made from the milk of local goats that graze on the island’s abundant pastures, resulting in a distinctively tangy and creamy flavour.

To prepare Canarian grilled cheese, you’ll need:

  • Queso de cabra: As mentioned earlier, this goat cheese is the heart of the dish.
  • Mojo rojo: A spicy red pepper sauce that adds a kick to the dish.
  • Gofio: A type of roasted cornmeal often used as a garnish.
  • Olive oil: High-quality olive oil is used for grilling and drizzling.

Start by slicing the ‘queso de cabra’ into thick rounds. These rounds are usually about half an inch thick. Heat a grill or skillet to medium-high heat and lightly brush it with olive oil. Grill the cheese rounds for a few minutes on each side until they develop a beautiful golden-brown crust. This quick grilling enhances the cheese’s flavours and gives it a slightly smoky taste.

Canarian grilled cheese is often served hot and sizzling, topped with a generous drizzle of mojo rojo sauce. The spicy kick of the sauce complements the rich, creamy cheese perfectly. It’s not uncommon to sprinkle a bit of gofio on top for added texture and flavour.

Perfect pairings: Canarian wine and more

To enhance your experience of Canarian grilled cheese, consider pairing it with local wines, known for their quality and unique terroir. A crisp white wine like Malvasía or a robust red like Listán Negro can complement the dish beautifully.

The grilled cheese embodies the Canarian spirit of savouring life’s simple pleasures. It’s a gastronomic delight that captures the essence of the islands, where the natural flavours of locally sourced ingredients take center stage.

When you visit the Canary Islands, you’ll have numerous opportunities to indulge in the pleasure of the ‘queso asado’. It’s a staple in Canarian cuisine, and you’ll find it on the menus of many traditional restaurants and tapas bars across the islands.

‘Queso asado’ is more than just a grilled cheese; it’s a testament to the rich culinary heritage of the Canary Islands. When you visit these beautiful islands, be sure to savour this delightful dish and experience the unique flavours of the Canarian cheese tradition. It’s a culinary journey that will leave you with a newfound appreciation for the simple joys of life.

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