Essentials: Quesadillas

My two main goals as a cook are to squeeze more vegetables into our diet and to master the essential dishes of French bourgeois and American home cooking. My husband’s two main goals as an eater are to convince me to braise large pieces of meat more often and to consume quesadillas as frequently as possible. As it happens, these desires work together better than you might expect: I tend to use quesadillas as a kind of reward meal for a week that has otherwise been grimly healthy or as a break for myself after a day or two of ambitious cooking.

For many people the idea of a recipe for quesadillas is silly, I know, but I spent a few years improvising sloppy, not-so-great ones before Cook’s Illustrated turned me into the confident filler and flipper I am today. The most important tips here are to fold the tortillas in half and fry them as half-moons and to brush a little vegetable oil on the outside. The goal here is not authenticity, Mexican food buffs: it’s cheesy deliciousness.

Quick and Easy Quesadillas

-makes 2 folded 8-inch quesadillas (serves 1 in our house)-
Adapted from the March & April 2005 issue of Cook’s Illustrated

Essentials: Quesadillas

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About This Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 8-inch flour tortillas
  • 2/3 cup (3 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced pickled jalapenos (optional)
  • Vegetable oil for brushing tortillas
  • Kosher salt

Procedures

  1. 1

    Heat 10-inch nonstick or 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Place 1 tortilla in skillet and toast until soft and puffed slightly at edges, about 2 minutes. Flip tortilla and toast until puffed and slightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Slip tortilla onto cutting board. Repeat to toast second tortilla while assembling first quesadilla. Sprinkle 1/3 cup cheese and half of jalapenos, if using, over half of tortilla, leaving 1/2-inch border around edge. Fold tortilla in half and press to flatten. Brush top generously with oil, sprinkle lightly with salt, and set aside. Repeat to form second quesadilla.

  2. 2

    Put both quesadillas in skillet, oiled sides down, with their flat sides together so that together they fill the skillet; cook over medium heat until crisp and well browned 1 to 2 minutes. Brush tops with oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Flip quesadillas and cook until second sides are crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer quesadillas to cutting board. Cool about 3 minutes—otherwise the cheese will all just ooze out, and you’ll burn your mouth if you try to eat them right away anyway. Halve each quesadilla and serve.

  3. 3

    Finished quesadillas can be held on a baking sheet in a 200°F oven for up to 20 minutes.

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