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Rick Bayless's Quintessential Quesadillas (McIlhenny Company)
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Crusty Griddle-Baked Quesadillas
(Quesadillas Asadas)

Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen:
Recipes and Techiniques
of a World-Class Cuisine

by Rick Bayless with Deann Groen Bayless and
JeanMarie Brownson, 1996, Scribner

“Quesadillas are the grilled cheese sandwiches of Mexico, so they should become part of your quick-to-prepare repertoire. Though you can make these quesadillas with ready-made corn tortillas folded over melting cheese and toasted on a griddle,
I prefer making them with homemade tortillas as they do throughout Central and Southern Mexico. Cooks simply lay a thin circle of dough onto the griddle, spread on the filling, fold it over and bake until crusty. It is a wonder of texture, from the remarkable chewy crust, to the soft ‘masa’ inside, to the velvety cheese, sweet onion and spicy chile filling. Lace it all with a spoonful of tangy salsa and you’ve got a dish that truly captures the imagination.”

Makes 12 quesadillas, serving 4 to 6 as a casual main dish or snack

For 2 cups Essential Roasted-Poblano Rajas
1 pound (6 medium-large) fresh poblano chiles
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
1 large white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
Salt, about 1/2 teaspoon

 1 pound (2 cups) fresh ‘masa’ for tortillas
1 3/4 cups ‘masa harina’ mixed with
2 tablespoons hot water
2 1/2 cups (about 10 ounces) shredded Mexican
Chihuahua cheese, or other melting cheese
such as brick or Monterey Jack
About 1 cup salsa… for serving

1. Making about 2 cups of the Essential Roasted-Poblano Rajas.
Roast the chiles directly over a gas flame or 4 inches below a very hot
broiler until blackened on all sides, about 5 minutes for open flame,
about 10 minutes for broiler. Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand
5 minutes. Peel, pull out the stem and seed pod, then rinse briefly
to remove bits of skin and seeds. Slice into 1/4-inch strips.
In a medium-size (8- to 9-inch) skillet, heat the oil over medium to
medium-high, then add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, until
nicely browned but still a little crunchy, about 5 minutes. Add the
garlic and oregano, toss a minute longer, then stir in the chiles and
just heat through. Taste and season with salt.
2. The quesadillas. Cut two squares of medium-heavy plastic (a garbage
bag works well) to cover the plates of your tortilla press. If necessary,
knead a few drops more water into the ‘masa’ to give it the consisten-
cy of a soft cookie dough, then roll it into 12 balls. Cover with plastic.
Divide the cheese into 12 equal portions; cover with plastic.
Turn on the oven to the lowest setting. Heat a large griddle or heavy
skillet over medium. One by one, use the tortilla press to press out the
dough between the two pieces of plastic. Peel off the top sheet, then flip
the uncovered side of the tortilla onto your hand (the top of the tortilla
should align with your index finger, and fingers should be slightly spread
to give support). Carefully peel off the plastic, then, with a gentle, swift
motion, lay the tortilla on the hot griddle. Evenly sprinkle on a portion
of the cheese, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around so cheese doesn’t
run out onto the griddle, then lay a portion of the rajas down the center.
When the tortilla comes free from the griddle (it will take about 20
seconds), use a spatula to fold it in half, and gently press the edges
together, more or less sealing them. Move the quesadilla to the side
and continue baking as you begin the next one. Continue making and
folding quesadillas, letting them bake on the griddle until crispy/crunchy
and nicely browned (the masa on the inside will still be a little soft), for
2 or 3 minutes in all. Keep finished quesadillas warm on a rack set on
a baking pan in the oven.
When all are made, immediately line them up on a warm serving platter
or wooden board or a basket lined with colored paper or a napkin, and
serve with the salsa.

Advance Preparation – Rajas can be made 2 days ahead; cover and refrigerate.

Shortcuts – The simplest quesadilla is made from a fresh store-bought
corn or flour tortilla. A few slices of pickled jalapeño will spice it up. (If
the corn tortilla is stale, it will toast up pretty hard.) Here’s JeanMarie’s
method: Toast a store-bought tortilla on an open flame until warmed
through, sprinkle on the cheese and rajas, fold over and microwave on
high on a plate for 10 to 20 seconds, just to melt the cheese. They
have to be served right away.

Variations and Improvisations – Of course, quesadillas can take prac-tically any filling you are drawn to. For lunch at the restaurant we serve
them filled with shredded duck and rajas, with grilled shrimp dashed with
chopped canned chipotles, with grilled chicken dollloped with guacamole,
and with braised wild mushrooms, poblano and epazote. At night, we
make little appetizer ones from time to time, filled with ‘huitlacoche;
or squash blossoms (that’s very, very Mexico City).

More Quesadilla Variations

Featured Archive Recipes:
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Salsa Collection
Holy Guacamole!
Ultimate Nachos
Favorite Layered Mexican Dip


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