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Tortitas de queso—they're no relation to the torta, or sandwich, that you may know and love. Tortitas are little fritters that can be made from cheese, potato, dried shrimp, shredded chicken or beef: basically any leftover hanging around the house that's mixed with rice or egg, formed into patties, fried, and then simmered in a rich salsa.

But tortitas de queso, especially popular during Lent, are particularly delicious, and I was excited to find them this week at Taqueria Coatzingo on Roosevelt Avenue. Chunks of salty cotija cheese form the base of the little cake, which was, in this version, doused in a spicy and thick ancho chile salsa, then mixed with nopales—the cactus paddles that are a traditional accompaniment to the vegetarian meal. The tortitas, after being fried, then plunged into salsa, have a distinct texture. The outside, no longer a crisp shell, is much like the coating of a chile relleno: softened, but still distinct from the chunky yet airy interior, full of cheese and egg.

Combined with the heat of the chiles and the boiled nopales, each bite has a bit of richness, some spice, and the healthy, green cactus flavor, in perfect balance. The order came with two huge patties, rice, beans, and tortillas for $12.50.

Tortitas are a dish most often made at home, when there isn't much in the fridge or pantry but the staples; dried chiles, a few tomatoes, eggs, rice, and whatever protein is lying around. This is one of those not-so-often-made-in restaurants kind of plates, so if you see tortitas de queso on a menu, give them a shot!

Taqueria Coatzingo

76-05 Roosevelt Avenue, Queens NY 11372 (map)
718-424-1977

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