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Queso Oaxaca, Queso Cotija, Crema Mexicana, and Crema Casera

At local Mexican markets, you'll find Mexican-style dairy products that taste more like their European equivalents than the supermarkets' sorry substitutes. Rubbery, semi-skim mozzarella doesn't melt right? Substitute Queso Oaxaca, a twin to properly gooey, whole-milk mozzarella. In a pinch, some crumbly, salty Queso Cotija can stand in for feta, soft goat cheese, even ricotta salata. Crema Mexicana is a soft-textured semi-sour cream, similar to crème frâiche. Crema Casera is a thick, sweet cream that's gorgeous in sauces or desserts. Both cremas come in plastic bottles, and while they cost more than their American-brand counterparts, they taste cleaner, they're not compromised by ultra-pasteurization, and they last much longer after opening. Cacique and El Mexicano are two reliable brands.

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