Before moving to New York, I ran the kitchen at Francis Mallmann’s summer restaurant
Patagonia West in the Hamptons. Late at night after my shifts, I’d go to the only place in town
that was open: a 7-Eleven. I’d almost always grab one of those taquitos and pump Cheez Whiz
all over it. One night toward the end of the season, the clerk, who had seen me perform this
ritual many times, smiled at me and said, “My friend, you really love America.”
Such was the inspiration for Estela’s Taleggio sauce, which sounds infinitely more sophisticated than Cheez-Whiz—but is only two ingredients: Taleggio cheese and heavy cream (plus salt to taste). You heat the cream, pour it over the cheese, let the two get to know each other, then blend them together. That’s it.
Because the ingredient list is so small, I asked Mattos why he went with Taleggio, a semisoft Italian cheese with a washed rind. “It’s funky and has truffle and barn-like notes,” he told me. “It’s rich and also decadent.”
Sold. I love how pungent the flavor is, while still making way for whatever you’re pouring the cheese sauce on. If you can’t find Taleggio, don’t let this stop you from riffing. In the test kitchen, we swapped in Brie to see if it would work—and, yep, sure did. The flavor was milder, but still worth pouring on anything.
On Estela’s menu, you’ll find the Taleggio sauce alongside steak. But Mattos loves it with a lot more than that. His favorite ways include: “with a burger, on roasted Brussels sprouts, or used as a dip for fries.”
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing stories about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now, she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter.