If you are still looking for party food to snack on during the New Year, these Tequeños from Venezuela are a great option. Sticks of Queso Blanco are wrapped in a thin dough and fried until golden. I paired them with Guasacaca, a smooth green sauce with avocado, onion, parsley, cilantro, pepper, vinegar, and oil. You can also serve them with tomato-based sauces. There are a few variations that include other ingredients like guava, ham, and plantain.
According to Venezuelan Cooking, the Tequeños were developed by Josefina Baez in the 1920s when she was only 15 years old. She had a catering business in Los Teques and made them as a way to use up leftover dough. Their popularity spread through Venezuela and now to neighboring countries.
Guasacaca actually keeps better in the refrigerator compared to other avocado-based sauces like guacamole. No need to push the plastic down to the top layer before storing. This sauce will stay vibrant for at least a couple of days. It is also a great sauce to pair with grilled meat.
I deep-fried the tequeños, but you can also bake them in a 350 degree F oven until golden brown. If frying, be careful to only fry until they are golden. Much longer and the cheese will start to burst through the dough. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before serving so you don’t burn yourself with hot, molten cheese.
Queso Blanco is a white melting cheese. It is available in markets featuring Latin American food and some larger grocery stores. If possible, try to find Venezuelan-style Queso Blanco.
If you only want to fry a few and store the rest for later, arrange the wrapped pieces of cheese on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer and freeze until thoroughly chilled. Transfer to a freezer-safe bag until ready to use. They can be fried straight from the freezer. I fried all the sticks at once and stored the extras in the refrigerator. Not as good as straight out of the oil, but the leftovers reheated in a 350 degree F oven were still a tasty treat.
2 avocados, diced
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 green bell pepper, stem removed, de-seeded, and roughly chopped
1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, stem removed, de-seeded, and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup olive oil or corn oil
500 grams (~3 3/4 cups all purpose flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
250 grams (18 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
24 ounces Queso Blanco
Vegetable oil for frying
To make the Guasacaca: In a large food processor, add the avocados, onion, green pepper, jalapeño, garlic, parsley, cilantro, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Blend until combined and mostly smooth. Continue to run the processor while slowly pouring in the oil. Once smooth, transfer to an airtight container and allow to rest at room temperature for an hour before serving. If making in advance, store in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
To make the tequeños: In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Make a well in the center and mix in the butter and eggs until well combined. Slowly add warm water just until dough comes together. Knead on a lightly floured surface until soft and smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Slice one 12 ounce block of cheese into 6 sticks. Lay each stick on its side and cut in half lengthwise to make 12 equal sized rods. They should be about 3 inches long and 1/2 inch thick. If you have a larger block of cheese, the sticks can be halved to reach the desired size. Repeat with second block of cheese. Store in the refrigerator until ready to wrap.
Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Place on on a lightly floured surface and cover the other until ready to use. Roll the dough into a thin rectangle (about 1/8 inch thick) about 10 inches long. Cut into strips lengthwise about 3/4 inch wide.
Pour about 2 inches of oil into a pan and place over medium heat to 350 degrees F.
Start with one end of a cheese stick and roll a strip of dough around the cheese, slightly overlapping the layers, to cover the other end. Make sure the cheese is completely covered. Roll lightly to seal. Repeat with remaining dough and cheese.
Fry the covered cheese, in batches, in the heated oil until just golden on all sides. Transfer to a towel-lined plate and serve after a couple of minutes with the guasacaca.