Nopalito, the San Francisco Mexican eatery that’s captured hearts and appetites all over the city, has a new cookbook out that’s going to add a little fire to your cocina Mexicano. We can’t think of a better way to kick off dinner than a delightful little skillet of bubbling cheese, spicy sausage and nopales. Queso flameado with chorizo, anyone?
This delicious dish of molten cheese and crumbled, spiced chorizo is loved all over Mexico, but my favorite versions are in the southern part of the country, where cooks often add tender cactus leaves, or nopales. (Outside of Mexico you can usually find cactus at Mexican markets or online.) Once you have all the ingredients prepared and layered, it takes just 10 minutes in the oven.
A cazuela is a Spanish-style ovenproof dish; you can use any comparable casserole dish or cast-iron pot. Queso flameado is best eaten hot, so be sure to get it onto the table just as soon as it is out of the oven.
- 2 small nopales, spines trimmed away
- 2 teaspoons rice bran oil or canola oil
- 3/4 cup Chorizo Oaxaqueño or crumbled store-bought Mexican chorizo (discard the casings)
- 1 cup shredded Jack cheese
- 2/3 cup shredded Oaxacan cheese
- chopped cilantro leaves
- Tortilla chips or warm soft corn tortillas, for serving
For the queso
Rinse the cactus leaves with cold water and pat them dry; season on both sides with salt. Preheat a skillet big enough to contain both cactus leaves over high heat (if they won’t both fit, work in batches or in two separate skillets). Add the cactus leaves and cook, flipping them every 3 to 4 minutes, until well seared on both sides, about 15 minutes total. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest until cool enough to handle, then slice into thin, bite-sized strips.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon or spatula, until browned and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain off any excess fat that pools in the bottom of the pan.
In a 16-ounce (6-inch) cazuela or other ovenproof baking dish, layer half of the Jack cheese evenly on the bottom. Top with a layer of the chorizo, then one-quarter of the Oaxacan cheese, the cactus strips, and the rest of the Jack and Oaxacan cheeses mixed together.
Set the dish on a baking sheet and bake until the cheese is completely melted and bubbling around the edges, about 10 minutes. Remove and garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve immediately with chips or tortillas for dipping.