Quick and Easy Turkey and Brussels Sprout Quesadillas
I can't say my wife never gives me compliments, but she's certainly wary about doling them out willy-nilly, and with good reason. Compliments from her tend to go to my head. Take, for instance, what she said to me a couple weeks ago when I made her a batch of these Brussels sprout and turkey quesadillas for dinner: "You know, you make really good quesadillas." And you know what, she's right. I do make really good quesadillas. (See how quickly that went to my head?)
I can't say they're particularly faithful to any tradition, and I know that there are Texans and Southwesterners out there who would gawk at cooking quesadillas in oil, but damned if I don't love the golden-brown, puffy, crispy, gooey, cheese-filled results, tradition be damned.
Roast turkey and Brussels sprouts go together like Bennie and the Jets, and it's a shame that they rarely make on-stage appearances outside of Thanksgiving. I aim to change that.
The first key to these quesadillas is to char the Brussels sprouts. And I mean, really char them. I like to shred them by hand or with the grating disk on a food processor in order to maximize total char-able surface area, as well as to ensure that they incorporate into the quesadillas evenly.
A cast iron skillet, a bit of oil, and high, high heat are the first steps to flavor.
Next, I combine all of my filling ingredients. Roast turkey shredded into small pieces (roast turkey from the deli works just fine, if you have leftovers, even better), the Brussels sprouts, some chopped pickled jalapeños to lighten everything up, and shredded Jack cheese.
Mixing the ingredients thoroughly before adding them to the tortilla ensures that they get distributed evenly, while allowing the cheese to melt and bind everything together.
I used to make my quesadillas by adding fillings to a single tortilla, then slapping the other one on top. This can lead to problems down the road, namely, the dreaded tortilla backslide: when your fillings slip out from the back of the tortillas as you attempt to awkwardly flip them in the pan.
Much easier is to put half the filling in each of two tortillas, leaving a bit of a border around the edge. When you fold the tortilla over, it creates a neat, easily flippable package.
Now this is where things get more controversial. Some folks grill their tortillas without any added fat. Others use butter. I like to use oil, and a good amount of it—enough that your tortillas brown evenly and puff up as they cook, resulting in a finished texture that is paradoxically lighter and less greasy tasting than a quesadilla cooked in a smaller amount of fat.
Make sure to sprinkle the quesadilla with a bit of salt as soon as you flip it, then again as it comes out of the skillet. Crispy fried foods require little bursts of salt. I mean it.
The reality: my wife gets to eat all of the quesadillas and I eat black bean soup for dinner.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.