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Oct 31, 2017
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WINE WITH…Grilled Steak with Caramelized Onion, Queso Fresco, and Lime

Queso fresco, a soft, white cheese, is one of the mainstays of Mexican cuisine. It is readily available these days in many urban supermarkets as well as specialty food shops, and there are scores of sites online with simple instructions on how to make your own version. Most queso fresco has a texture that resembles feta, and like feta, it will soften with heat but will not really melt.

A delicious alchemy takes place when grilled steak meets queso fresco. You might think that this cheese’s mild, fresh flavors would be overwhelmed by the assertiveness of a nicely grilled steak, but in fact just the opposite occurs. Indeed, when the umami flavors of meat interconnect with the sweet, milky proteins in the cheese, gustatory sparks begin to fly. Enhance this tasty combination further with the juicy acidity of fresh lime, then pour a round of robust red wine and enjoy the happy faces you’ll see around the table.

Grilled Steak with Caramelized Onion, Queso Fresco, and Lime

Serves 4

The caramelized onion is optional, but it does add further complexity to this flavorful dish.

2 to 2 ½ pounds of flank, bavette, or flatiron steak
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium purple or yellow onion, cut in thin slices
3-4 ounces queso fresco, roughly crumbled
2 fresh limes

At least 10 minutes, and up to an hour before grilling the meat, blot the steaks dry with a paper towel and generously salt and pepper them.

To make the onions heat the oil in a small sauté pan. Add the onions and cook them slowly, stirring frequently and adjusting the heat as necessary, until they are tender and have turned a rich, golden brown.

Grill the steak over medium-high heat, turning it once. Spread the cheese on top of the uncooked side. Cook to desired doneness, but since these all are relatively lean cuts, be sure not to overcook it.

Meanwhile, cut the limes in half and grill them, flesh side down, alongside the steak once you have turned it.

To serve, slice the steak against the grain, top with more cheese if wanted, add the onions, and squeeze the charred limes on top.

* * *

This is clearly a red wine dish. This steak preparation can handle fairly big, tannic wines. Don’t choose something light or delicate. Go with muscle and power instead. The steak will match it, and the queso fresco will cut right through any unwanted astringency.

More recipes and wine pairings:    Wine With...  
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Approx. Price








(Imported by Alamos USA)


Rich and powerful but also quite young so slightly jammy, but packed full of plum and berry fruit flavors with echoes of chocolate and black licorice. This is a wine with plenty of stuffing. It has the weight to match the steak, and a juicy personality to add to the fun.


San Francisco Bay


Petite Sirah




Lighter in body than mot Petites yet still full of dark fruit flavor, this spicy red matched especially well with the char on the steak and the sweet caramelized onions. It doesn’t have the robust character that you expect from Petite Sirah, but is mighty enjoyable nonetheless.

Dry Creek Vineyard

Dry Creek Valley





A substantial Merlot that tastes of both black and red fruits, with fairly firm tannins and a long, layered finish. This wine loved being paired with the lime-soaked queso fresco.





(Imported by South River Imports)


Earthy, with deep, savory spice notes, this wine still tastes fresh. Made with Mencia grapes, it’s very compelling, and made for a nearly perfect match. Its tannins seemed to melt on the plate, making it simultaneously substantial and enticing.

Vina Robles

Paso Robles


Cabernet Sauvignon




Showing a classic California Cabernet profile, meaning fruit-forward with full ripeness and nary a trace of anything herbaceous, this weighty red proudly strut its stuff with the steak. It never got in the way, but it did make sure that we always knew it was there.