Josephinas Are The Toasty Treat With Rich Cheesy Flavors

Just as fashion trends tend to cycle, recipes saved from old newspaper clippings or faded cookbooks sometimes make their way back into modern cooking. Case in point: Josephinas, the tasty bite-sized cheese toast appetizer that has resurfaced in online cooking blogs and publications after decades of collecting dust.

The origin of Josephinas is murky, and some recipes call the dish Howell's bread. They've appeared in a 1970s California cookbook and a Kansas town's newspaper column in the early '80s, alluding to their popularity in both the Southwest and Midwest. Taking that into account, it should come as no surprise that Josephinas draw from common Southwestern ingredients like Monterey Jack cheese and diced green chilies.

As an appetizer, Josephinas lie somewhere between garlic bread and cheese toast. They consist of a creamy, dairy-laden topping spread over slices of French baguette and broiled to texture and flavor perfection. The topping blends chopped garlic, mayonnaise, butter, Monterey Jack cheese, and canned green chilies to deliver a savory and salty creaminess cut with a refreshingly zesty layer of spice from the garlic and chilies.

For as great as the toppings taste, the texture might be the true show-stopper. The crusts get as crunchy as crostini while the topping forms a soft, melted barrier for the chewy, buttery crumb. While mayonnaise may seem like overkill, it bestows a nice tanginess, and its higher smoke point protects the garlic and butter from burning. In fact, mayonnaise can be the secret weapon in traditional garlic bread, too.

Josephinas: tips and ingredient swaps

Josephinas are an easy one-bowl dump recipe, but reaping the tastiest results requires time. First, you'll need to let cold butter thaw to room temperature so that it'll blend thoroughly with the other ingredients. Similar to cookie dough, you'll then need to refrigerate the mixture for at least a few hours to create a cohesive mass that won't spill over the sides of each baguette slice when you broil it. Consequently, this recipe is a great make-ahead appetizer. You can also refrigerate assembled Josephinas on baking pans. Then, all that's left to do is throw them under the broiler for a few minutes just before eating.

While most recipes call for Monterey Jack cheese and diced green chilies, you can make swaps or additions to the topping layer according to personal preferences or cuisine themes. If you want an even spicier finish to the cheesy, creamy butter foundation, you can use pickled jalapenos and chopped chipotles, or add crushed red pepper flakes to the original recipe. For more Southwestern flair, you could stir in a can of drained corn kernels, which would also add textural depth and a pop of sweetness.

For an Italian spin on Josephinas, try swapping the Monterey Jack cheese for mozzarella, the mayo for mascarpone, and the diced green chilies for roasted red peppers, then finish the dish off with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.