Spain is home to wonderful cheeses that reﬂect the diversity of its geography and climate. You might be familiar with Manchego. Mahón, or Zamorano. These are just a few of the unique, ﬂavorful cheeses produced in Spain. In fact, more than 20 Spanish cheeses have the DOP/PDO (Denominación de Origen Protegida/Protected Denomination of Origin) designation. It’s the strictest form of protection given to a food under the European Geographical Indication law. It indicates the geographic origin of a product and the speciﬁc processing requirements.
Preparing a Cheeseboard with Spanish Cheeses
A delicious Spanish-themed cheeseboard can round out a meal or be the centerpiece of a tapas night!
Cheeses: Start with three. We suggest a semi-aged or an aged Manchego, a semi-soft Mahon, and a soft cow’s cheese like Rey Silo, or a blue cheese like Cabrales. You can also ask the cheesemonger at your cheese store for recommendations.
Pairings: membrillo (quince paste), olives, almonds, roasted peppers, and a crusty bread.
Drinks: a chilled Verdejo white wine will bring out the sweet notes of the cheese. If you prefer a red wine, a Rioja will match the notes of aged Spanish cheeses.
Spanish Cheese Terms
Cuajo. Leche cruda. Añejo. Learn these terms and more from the Oldways Cheese Coalition’s guide to Spanish Cheese Terms.
Cooking with Spanish Cheeses
While Spanish cheeses make an impressive cheeseboard, they are equally as wonderful in recipes. This recipe for a traditional Spanish tortilla (similar to an omelette) is a favorite of ours. We use Manchego, which you’ll ﬁnd is an incredible cheese to keep on hand for its spectacular ﬂavor and its ﬂexibility in how it can be enjoyed in dishes or on its own.
Recipe: Spanish Torilla
5 medium potatoes, peeled
1 small Spanish onion
4 large eggs
2 cups of olive oil, preferably extra-virgin Arbequina or Picual
1 cup raw-milk Manchego or Roncal D.O.C cheese, shredded or cubed
- Cut peeled potatoes in half and slice into relatively thin stripes, lengthwise.
- Peel and dice the onion and combine with potatoes in a large bowl. Season with salt to taste.
- Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet or heavy, medium-sized non-stick frying pan. When the oil is up to medium-high temperature, gently incorporate the potato and onion mixture. Fry at a low heat until potatoes are cooked and tender throughout (roughly 10-12 minutes). Use a slotted spoon to removed the mixture and drain in a colander bedded with paper towels.
- While the potatoes drain, crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat with a whisk or fork. Combine the eggs into the potato mixture and add the shredded cheese. Incorporate thoroughly.
- Pour a small amount of olive oil into the cast iron skillet, or medium non-stick frying pan and bring to medium heat. When up to temperature, slowly add the combined egg, cheese, and potato blend, distributing evenly. Bring the heat to medium-low and cook until the edges of the tortilla have started to brown (6-8 minutes). The interior will at this point remain undercooked.
- When the bottom has suﬃciently set and browned, place a large dinner plate or sheet pan over the frying pan to cover. Carefully(!) ﬂip the tortilla over.
- Return the pan to medium heat, and gently replace the tortilla. Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes until the egg has set through the center.
- Let rest for 5-10 minutes and cut into wedges. Equally delicious served warm or at room temperature.
From The Cheesemonger’s Seasons by Chester Hastings, Photographs by Joseph de Leo ©2014
Used with Permission from Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco.