Irish Heritage and Two Cheese Soups

Click here to go to printable recipe:  Sonora Style Cheese Soup

Click here to go to printable recipe:  Irish Beer Cheese Soup

History Tidbit:

In my previous post, I mentioned Ciudad Obregón, in the Mexican state of Sonora.   This city is the second largest in the state, only behind the capital city of Hermosillo.  It owes its current name and status of top agricultural centre in the state, to Álvaro Obregón Salido, a general during the Mexican Revolution War, and 46th president of Mexico (1920-1924).  Obregón was born in Siquisiva, a small community near Alamos, Sonora, on February 17, 1880.  It is said that his grandfather was an Irish immigrant named O’Brien, who worked in the railroads, and that Alvaro’s father, Francisco, changed their name to Obregón.  

Alvaro grew up poor, and while working on his family’s farm, his contact with indigenous labourers (Mayo- Yaqui – Yoreme), allowed him to learn the Mayo language.  He attended elementary school in Huatabampo, where he continued to live, working in several trades, such as sales, becoming mayor of that town in 1911. Obregón did not join the Mexican Revolution War in 1910 to overturn dictator Porfirio Díaz, but became a supporter of reformist Francisco I. Madero; after Madero’s assassination in February of 1913, Obregón did then join the revolutionary forces, and his knowledge of the Mayo language helped him mobilize a group of Yaqui horsemen in the North, which was instrumental in overturning the shady government of usurper Victoriano Huerta, in 1914.  Venustiano Carranza became president, and appointed Alvaro Obregón as head of the Ministry of War and the Navy; when Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata rebelled against Carranza, Obregón won decisive confrontations against Villa, in spite of famously losing an arm during the Battle of Celaya in 1915, which earned him the nickname of “el manco de Celaya” – “the one-armed man of Celaya.”  Carranza consolidated enough power in Mexico City to call a constitutional convention in 1916, with the subsequent promulgation of the Mexican Constitution of 1917, of which Obregón was an important participant.  Venustiano Carranza was elected president, serving from 1917 to 1920.   

As the no re-election law was one of the biggest accomplishments of the Revolution and new constitution, Carranza, not wishing to relinquish his political power, designated his surrogate Ignacio Bonillas, to succeed him. Obregón was back in his natal Sonora, but planned to run for the presidency in the 1920 elections, and along with Plutarco Elías Calles and Adolfo de la Huerta, launched a revolt against Carranza empowered by their decree of the Plan of Agua Prieta.  De la Huerta became interim president, and Obregón overwhelmingly won the popular vote in the elections, becoming president on December 1, 1920, and serving a full four-year term, until 1924.  During his presidency, he initiated an agricultural revolution, especially in the Yaqui Valley in Sonora, turning it into one of the most prosperous nationwide; he implemented many educational reforms, naming José Vasconcelos as the first Secretary of Education.  President Obregón supported the arts and Mexican muralism flourished, and his labour laws and policies recognized workers’ rights, and maintained good relations with the US government through treaties to protect the oil interests of American companies in the country.  At the end of his term in 1924, he capriciously hand-picked his successor, Plutarco Elías Calles, and Obregón remained politically powerful during Calles’ term. Calles pushed through constitutional reform to make presidential re-election possible in non-consecutive terms, allowing Obregón to run and win the 1928 election. However, Obregón was assassinated in Mexico City before taking charge; this brought political turmoil, and Calles founded the National Revolutionary Party, later named the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), party which held the office of the presidency of Mexico until the turn of the twenty fist century.

Although a prominent figure of the Revolution War, Alvaro Obregón was not buried  like  Venustiano Carranza, Francisco I. Madero, Plutarco Elías Calles, Lázaro Cárdenas, and Francisco Villa in the columns of the Mexican Revolution Monument in Mexico City, but his remains rest in Huatabampo, in his natal state of Sonora.

As a homage to President Obregón’s place of birth, and as a nod to his Irish ancestry, I was looking for a recipe from Sonora that could be compared to an Irish dish, and found this Caldo de Queso (literally “cheese broth”), a very traditional soup in the state of Sonora.  Because it calls for potatoes in addition to cheese, I thought it would be easy to find an Irish recipe for a cheese and potato soup; I found recipes for “Irish Beer Cheese Soup”, some with croutons, other with potatoes, but I learned that they are really more of an adaptation of medieval beer soups that probably originated elsewhere in Europe, and I could not verify if they are actually favoured in Ireland.  I decided to try one anyway; using an Irish lager (for example, Harp™), and a mature white cheddar cheese (somewhat similar to a Dubliner), I did not feel too bad calling it “Irish-Beer Cheese Soup”, like that, with the hyphenation, just to make sure I am not insulting authentic Irish cuisine.

Sonora Style Cheese Soup – Caldo de queso

Printable recipe:  Sonora Style Cheese Soup

Ingredients (for 6 portions)

½ lb (225 g) fresh cheese, such as Sonora regional (or panela, or even Indian paneer); cubed
1 tomato; washed, halved, stem spots removed
¼ white onion; peeled
2 cloves garlic; peeled, and finely chopped
3 green chili peppers, such as Anaheim (or poblano, or bell green); washed
2-3 white potatoes; washed 
½ cup evaporated milk
4 cups water
2 tbsp oil
Salt, to taste
Optional, to serve:
Hot pepper flakes, such as chiltepín 

Grate one half of the tomato, cut side down, pushing gently down to leave the skin behind; repeat with the second half (photo below, left).  Reserve pulp, and discard stem spots and skins (photo below, right):

In a similar manner, grate onion, and reserve, along with finely chopped garlic (photo below, left).  Roast, peel and slice green chili peppers (click here for detailed directions), and reserve (photo below, right):

In a pot, warm up oil over medium heat; add onions and garlic and cook for one minute, then add grated tomatoes (photo below, left).  Stir to combine, reduce heat to low, then allow to cook, covered for ten minutes (photo below, right):

Meanwhile, place four cups of water in a large container.  Peel potatoes, cut them into cubes, placing the chunks in the water as they are being cut, to avoid browning (photo below, left).  After the ten minutes, uncover pot, and return heat to medium; scoop potatoes from the water, and add to the tomato mix (photo below, right):

Stir to combine for one minute, then add the water from soaking the potatoes to the pot (photo below, left).  Bring to boil, then cover the pot (photo below, right):

Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for five to ten minutes, until potatoes are fork-tender (photo below, left).  Add pepper strips (photo below, right):

At this point, the heat is kept low, so the soup is hot but not boiling, so the dairy with not separate when added to the broth.  Incorporate cubed cheese (photo below, left), then slowly add milk, stirring gently (photo below, right):

Serve hot:

Anaheim peppers are generally mild, so people in Sonora like to spice up their cheese soup with dry chiltepín peppers (photo below, left).  If using, offer at the table, so each person may sprinkle on their bowl of soup, to taste (photo below, right):

Irish-Beer Cheese Soup

Printable recipe:  Irish Beer Cheese Soup

Ingredients (for 6 portions)

¾ lb (340 g) mature white cheese, such as Dubliner (or aged white cheddar); shredded
3 tbsp unsalted butter
¼ onion; peeled, and chopped
1 potato; washed, peeled and cubed
¼ cup flour
2 cups broth (chicken, or veggie)
1 cup milk
1 cup beer, such as Irish Harp™ (or other lager)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp mustard (Dijon type, or a mix with yellow)

In a pot over medium heat, add butter (photo below, left); once melted, add chopped onions, and sauté (photo below, right):

Add potatoes, stirring to coat with butter and onion (photo below, left).  Cover pot (photo below, right):

Cook for about ten minutes, until the potatoes are fork-tender (photo below, left).  Add flour, and stir to avoid burning (photo below, right):

Cook just until the flour starts to turn grainy, but not brown, then add broth, stirring (photo below, left).  Once hot, but not boiling, add milk (photo below, right):

Finally, add the beer (photo below, right).  Transfer batches to a blender, and process until smoot, then return to pot, or use an immersion blender directly in the pot (photo below, right):

Add Worcestershire sauce and mustard (I used half Dijon and half yellow, photo below, left).  Stir and keep hot.  A couple of minutes before serving, reserve about a quarter of a cup of the cheese, for garnish, then add the rest to the pot (photo below, right):

Stir and serve as soon as the cheese has melted; top each bowl with reserved cheese, and optional, finish with some freshly ground pepper:

Two delicious soups, one chunky, the other creamy, both with a punch of cheese and potato flavours that are sure to please.

In the Christian calendar, March 17 is the Feast Day of St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, where Catholic families go to church, and then celebrate at home.  In the US and to some extent in Canada, St. Patrick’s Day has become a day of celebration of Irish heritage, with parades, food and Irish beer. In Mexico, the first organized “San Patricio Fest“, a parade and music festival, took place in Mexico City, in March of 2016, with more than two thousand people in attendance, featuring Mexican-Irish music, food, beer, and dance groups, and the remembrance of the St. Patrick’s Battalion (“los San Patricios”), a group of Irish soldiers who joined the Mexican side during the Mexican-American war of 1846-48; the ceremony takes place in Plaza San Jacinto, San Angel (Mexico City), where there is a bust of their leader, John Riley, as well as a plaque on the front wall of a building.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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3 thoughts on “Irish Heritage and Two Cheese Soups

    1. I know, I think it is sad to see yet another case of an exemplary character failing to recognize the time to let go of power. He probably would have had a more prominent place in Mexican history if he had not appointed his succesor, or seeked re-election, when the whole war had ignited from the need to remove a dictator from power. But a great reformer he was, the first Mexican president to complete his term with reasonable peace and stability.

      Liked by 1 person

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