Quesadillas are something that I like quite a bit when I go out. They’re tasty, full of cheese, and they’re generally fried on a griddle. Griddle anything and its gotta be good, I’m sure I could make a case for my socks tasting good as long as there was enough butter and a griddle involved.
I’m also a firm believer that most things I make at home will, with some research, practice, and a bit of love, turn out better than any dish served by any restaurant. No different here, then. I got an email from some fantastic family back East giving me some feedback on what I’m doing here. In there was also a desire for a quesadilla recipe. I’m working on the rest my dear, but here’s something to munch on while you’re waiting.
This is a recipe that’s open to possibilities. What I’m outlining below is just the basics. Tasty basics no doubt, but you can do all manner of things; add stuff, subtract stuff, play around with ingredients, it’s endless. This will give you the basic how-to and some general information. The rest and how far you want to go with it, is entirely up to you.
The most common quesadilla you’ll get when you’re out is something remotely resembling this recipe. It’s basically pico de gallo, cheese, and optionally chicken. Pico is really just tomato, onion, and jalapeno (or some other hot pepper.) in its most basic format. That and cheese and you’re in business. Clearly I’ve embellished things a bit, I’m good for that, but basic and honest is usually tasty.
I make my pico with a few more ingredients. For this recipe, which will make 4 or 5 decently stuffed 8 or 9 inch quesadillas, I use 3 smaller tomatoes, one half of a medium-sized onion (you’ll need the other half further on down) and 1 Serrano or Jalapeno pepper, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste. All that needs to be chopped fairly finely and set aside in a bowl. I will often zip a lime in half and squirt that juice over the top of this mixture. You are welcome to infect your mix with cilantro. I do not. I believe it tastes like soap. I know some people love it. We don’t.
Take that other half of the onion and one medium-sized green bell pepper and cut them into strips. These need to go into a pan with a little bit of olive oil for a few minutes to soften them up. Four or five minutes over medium-high heat ought to do it. You can set those aside now as well.
If you’re going with chicken, you’ll need to get that cooked up now. You can do this a number of ways. Most often I’ll buy cutlets and slice them into fairly small chunks. It cooks up pretty quickly this way and the smaller pieces seem to lend themselves to the flat food format. I toss my raw chicken in the same pan I cooked the onion and peppers in, often without adding more oil, and give it a quick few minutes to make sure they’re cooked all the way through. Sliced into small bits this is only another four or five minutes. Again, once cooked, these too can be set aside.
Cheese is another thing you’ll need to put some thought into. Sometimes I have one kind of cheese if I’ve just gone to the store. Other times I’m clearing out 3 or 4 1/4 bags or blocks of leftover cheese just so nothing goes to waste. Ideally Monterey Jack, pepper jack, cheddar, or maybe those “Mexican Blend” shredded cheeses in the store will work great. I shred everything I use or buy the bags of pre-shred in the store. I’ve used mozzarella, Reggiano Parmesan, and just about any combination you can think of. Most often pepper jack and cheddar though. They both melt nicely and fit the taste you’re expecting. How much cheese you’ll need also depends on how much you like cheese I suppose. I decent sized bag of cheese (8 or 10 ounces) will generally be enough. If you get two types (therefore two bags) you’ll have some left over for grilled cheese or to make these again.
So what now? You’ll need a flat cook surface to make these on. That can be a large pan, a griddle, anything with enough room to set the tortilla flat down and have enough room to get a spatula underneath it. You can also use smaller tortillas if this is an issue. I have a flat pan with no sides that’s perfect for one at a time. If I had a giant griddle I’m sure I’d fire these off en-masse.
On my electric range top I’m usually using a setting of 4 or so. I put a small amount of butter on the pan, spread it around thinly, and place a tortilla onto the hot surface. Here’s the fun part, now you get to build your tortilla. I find that starting with cheese and ending with cheese keeps both halves “glued” into place. I spread a nice layer of cheese on the bottom, I go with the chicken next (if you’re veg – clearly you’re not following this step), spread a decent amount of pico, peppers and onions, and then top off with a layer of cheese again. I usually make sure there’s a little extra cheese around the edge, this just helps seal the whole thing together (in my mind at least.) Top with another layer of cheese and cap with a tortilla. Five minutes or so should get things nicely melted and the tortilla shell nicely browned. It may take a little bit more or less, you’ll smell the cheese long before it burns, however.
Flipping it presents another problem. I have a giant spatula that makes it fairly easy. It’s also a reason I don’t use a large tortilla, I’m afraid I just wouldn’t be able to handle it. If you’re having similar thoughts, you can put a plate or something flat on top of your quesadilla, get your spatula underneath it, flip, and then slide it off the plate back onto the heat. This side will usually take a little less time. Once done I slide it onto a cutting board, give it a minute for the cheese to solidify slightly, and run it into quarters with a pizza slicer or big knife. Cooked properly there will be a little crunch to your tortillas.
You can serve these with guacamole, salsa, and/or sour cream. I’m fairly a purist so I just stick them in my mouth. These certainly rival anything I’ve had in any restaurant. They’re easy and fun to put together – it’s nice being able to make one just how you like it -and the taste afterward is just fantastic.
For four 8 or 9 inch quesadillas (I usually will have one to one and half) you’ll need the following
- 3 Small Tomatoes
- 1 Medium Sized Onion
- 1 Medium Sized Green Bell Pepper
- 2 or 3 Cloves of Garlic
- 1 Serrano or Jalapeno Pepper
- 1 Small Lime
- 1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon Onion Powder
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
- 1 8 – 10 Ounce Package of Cheese (Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, and/or Cheddar)
- 1 Pound of Chicken (Optional)
- 1 Tablespoon of Butter (For oiling pan)
- 1 Tablespoon of Oil (For sauteing onion and pepper)