July 2, 2009 by skwishface
As previously discussed (like, immediately previous. just scroll down), my family is on a budget. So, meals for the week are planned around leftovers from whatever big meal I cook on Sunday night. This past Sunday, we spent a whopping $5 on a dozen chicken legs.
Chicken legs coated in lemon juice, salt & pepper, and roasted (400 degrees for at least half an hour) can yield a whole mess of delicious and versatile leftover goodness. The meat is super juicy, and good in pasta sauces, on sammiches, you name it. For our Thursday night meal, it was quesadillas.
Tex-Mex cuisine is not rocket science, y’all. If you can make a grilled cheese sammich, you can make quesadillas. If you can’t make a grilled cheese sammich, learn how to make quesadillas and then reverse-engineer the process for your sammiches.
Quesadillas (prep time: 15 minutes, maybe less)
1/2 pound-ish of cooked chicken
2-ish cups of whatever melty cheese you’ve got
6 flour tortillas
1-2 tablespoons butter/margarine
It’s Thursday night, the kids are hollerin’, The Hubs is hungry, there is no time to make a grocery store run. I only had a few slices of american cheese and about 1/3 a bag of monterey jack. So yeah, I mixed them. This only works if you use the FANCY shredded cheese. Anything less will destroy your entire meal (untrue). As for the tortillas, our HEB has these adorable little women who just make fresh flour tortillas all day long. They’re delish, so that’s what I use. Really, any kind of flour tortilla will do. You could use corn if you want, but it’s been my experience that corn tortillas tend to get oily and brittle when cooking, rather than toast up like the flour ones.
Before I could assemble the quesadillas, I had to dismantle the chicken. You could use a fork and knife for this, but I found two tools that work like magic to quickly pull apart the meat and separate the inedible bits:
Lay out a tortilla and apply the first layer of cheese evenly. Don’t pile it up in one spot, or you’ll end up with bumpy uneven quesadillas which will make Baby Jesus cry.
Add a layer of the chicken. Again with the even distribution:
Next, another layer of cheese. Keep it even, you know the drill by now.
Top it off with another tortilla. Spread butter or margarine on this top tortilla. I’m no butter Nazi – I don’t care if you use butter or margarine or what, here. I think I’m using something that calls itself “Bake n’ Spread”, so it’s probably secondhand vegetable oil pressed into stick-of-butter shape. Who cares? What matters is that the surface of the tortilla be lubricated enough to toast and not burn up/dry out during cooking.
There! Your quesadilla is assembled! Repeat this process until you run out of ingredients. Now it’s time to cook!
I make a buttload of quesadillas with each batch, so I like to use my handy-dandy cast iron griddle for maximum surface area. A skillet or other flat pan works just as well. No matter what you use, it is imperative that you put it on medium-high heat, take a chunk of whatever buttery substance you’re using, and lube the surface.
Spread the butteryness around so there’s enough for all of your quesadillas to sit on. Then lay out your assembled quesadillas. You don’t want them to overlap, but you can squeeze in as many as you have room for.
Now leave them alone. Seriously. Don’t scoot them around, don’t peek to see how they’re cooking, don’t flip them, don’t anything. You’re going to hear some hissing and bubbling, but you must resist the urge to mess with them. If you must poke at them, try just lifting the top tortilla A LITTLE BIT to see how the cheese is melting.
My rule of thumb is this: when the butter on the top tortilla starts melting, you can flip it. That means the heat has gotten all the way through, the cheese is all melty and holding both tortillas together, and it’ll be easy to flip.
When flipped, you should see that the bottom tortilla is golden brown and delicious. Resist the urge to shove your face into the food at this point. The results would be tragic. Yummy, but tragic.
Oh, and if your tortillas are very fresh, this might happen:
Because you were a smarty and pre-buttered your top tortilla, it is now lubed-side-down on the cooking surface. Hurray!
Keep in mind that the second side will cook up way faster than the first. Like in less than half the time. For this side, you are welcome to take your spatula and lift up your quesadilla to check on it. It’s very easy to burn them at this stage, so the previous rule about not peeking is revoked.
Once they’re done, remove your quesadillas to a plate (if you’re working in batches, this is a good time to put the second batch on the heat) and LET IT COOL for at least two minutes. If you cut it too soon, all the cheese will ooze out and you’ll have a plate of cheese with toasted tortillas to dip in it. Which is tasty in its own right, but not a quesadilla.
How to cut it? Why, with a pizza cutter, of course! Seriously, it’s a marvelous kitchen tool, utterly versatile. Really, is there anything a pizza cutter can’t do?
Arrange your quesadilla triangles on a plate, drop some of the sauce you made earlier on top, and chow the eff down. No fancy dishes are required. This is ultimate casual dining, all toasty and melty and juicy. At most, you might want a napkin. If you’re in my house, you’ll keep to the theme and use a paper towel like the rest of us snobs.
Note: you don’t have to use chicken in this! I’ve made quesadillas with nothing in the middle but cheese and fresh sliced tomatoes and OMG. So good.