Friday, January 28, 2011

chicken and cheese quesadillas

Fridays with Coco original

I kinda think quesadillas are a blank canvas for many cooks. You can pretty much be creative with it. They work both ways, sweet or savory. This recipe came together because I had the ingredients in my pantry and I'm always up for quesadillas. 

Can't even begin to tell you how simple this recipe is. No hassle, no worry. The ideal quesadilla would be thin and crisp. This is also a great way to use leftover chicken. I had grilled mine on the same day but if you have leftovers that'd be great as well. What I would have done differently was not cut the chicken into cubes but rather shred them. I think that way it would have added a great textural element to the quesadillas. So if you decide to do this recipe, shred the chicken instead of cubing them.

Try to avoid processed cheese and use natural instead because the processed ones tend to be very "gluey" once they cool down. I had used Monterey Jack and White Cheddar cheese but you could try any from Pepper Jack, Colby Jack or even fresh Mexican cheeses such as Queso Fresco, which is considered ideal because they have a milder taste which won't clash with bold flavors such as cilantro and various mexican spices. I would personally avoid strong cheeses like Gruyere or parmesan just because Mexican flavors (cilantro, smoked paprika, cumin, chile powder and etc) don't go very well with them. If you decide to do this, use herbs and spices such as fresh italian parsley, sweet basil, dried oregano and vegetables like onions or mushrooms. 

Tip: Since I have included lemon juice in the chicken marinade, do not marinate them for more than 2 hours. Lemon juice contains an acidic element that toughens the chicken if left too long. 

Have fun snacking on these! 

Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas

Chicken Marinade:
2 strips chicken breast, keep it whole
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp chile powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
3 tbsp olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch of kosher salt*
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

4 flour tortillas (store-bought or make your own!)
2 green, yellow or red peppers, finely diced or julienned 
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, finely grated
1 cup mild White Cheddar cheese, finely grated
a bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
Sour cream and/or your favorite hot sauce for accompaniment

*If you don't have Kosher salt on hand, substitute it with rock salt.

For the chicken: combine all ingredients in a resealable bag such as Ziploc or Hefty. Give it a good shake and make sure the chicken is coated with the marinade evenly. Refrigerate and let marinate for an hour or two. Once done, heat a skillet over medium heat and grill the chicken about 12 minutes per side or just until golden brown and cooked all the way through. Let the chicken rest for a couple of minutes then slice them and continue to shred them into thin pieces. Set aside. 

For the quesadillas: Cook the peppers before hand. Raw peppers aren't pleasant. Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a medium saucepan over low heat and add the peppers and sauté until soft. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. 

Butter both sides of the tortillas. Heat a skillet over medium-low heat, lightly heat both sides before adding ingredients (Not too much because you don't want it to eventually burn once the ingredients are added), around 10 seconds per side. Sprinkle cheese, chicken, chopped cilantro and green peppers on all sides of the tortilla then top this with another tortilla. Once cheese is melted, carefully flip it to brown the other side. Make sure both sides are golden and crispy (an easier way would be putting the ingredients on half side of the tortilla and then folding the other half on top, both ways work fine).

Transfer the tortilla into a plate and cut into two or four triangular pieces. Serve with sour cream or the best hot sauce in the whole entire world!

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