Mexican Series #8: Quesadilla Education

Quesadillas are everywhere simply because they are comfort food like grilled cheese sandwiches. But they have several names- quesadillas, empanadas, molotes, tlacoyos etc according to Rick Bayless. What do quesadillas and empanadas have in common? I decided to do some digging.

The two authors I ran into in my exploration of Mexican food via books were Diana Kennedy- an older, pioneer woman in the documenting of Mexican cuisine and Rick Bayless - a contemporary chef who runs the Frontera grill in Chicago.

Diana Kennedy is strict about what a quesadilla is, " a corn masa turnover doubled over a filling of oaxaca cheese, a strip of poblano chile and some epazote leaves". Wait a minute CORN MASA ? Not even a cooked tortilla? If you make a quesadilla according to Diana Kennedy, as I did, it looks something like the picture below.

The more common quesadilla Ive seen so far is like the one below, two tortillas sandwiched over some filling. This is more accurately called a quesadilla synchonizada- so called because of the two synchronized tortillas on top of each other.

What are empanadas then? Rick Bayless suggests that an empanada is a wheat flour turnover / samosa with typically meat fillings. I will be posting empanada recipes soon.

To sum up,
For the quesadilla, roll out some corn masa like in the picture, keep some stuffing in the middle , fold and cut in a half moon shape. Deep fry or fry on a non stick skillet. The crisp exterior gives way to soft and melty corn dough and then to melty cheese. Yumm!

How to mix corn masa/ Lime processed corn flour? Refer to my previous post on corn tortillas

For the Quesadilla synchronizada, Place a tortilla - either corn or flour, on top of your skillet on medium heat. Top with about a tablespoon of filling - smooth out. Add as much cheese as you like - Domestic Sharp cheddar, Monterey Jack, Muenster or if you have access to Mexican cheeses, Oaxaca string cheese and chihuahua . Top with another tortilla and toast on both sides until crisp and the cheese is completely melted.

You can also optionally grill the quesadilla synchronizadas. One good tip is to top the quesadillas with some sal limon, that is lemon salt with paprika just before you take the quesadilla off the skillet. Easily available in mexican markets it gives a tangy sour patch type of finish which kids are sure to love.

For the filling you could use simple and delicious cheese or my recipes from previous posts on Mexican Stewed Mushrooms ( Hongos Guisados) or Mexican Swiss chard and Potatoes(Acelgas Guisadas).

Another filling for quesadillas/ empanadas/ Burritos that Ive come up with is

Makes enough for four quesadillas
2 roasted Red peppers( beautiful post from jugalbandi on how to roast red peppers)
1/2 a medium onion
1 chipotle pepper or to taste in adobo sauce
1 tsp mexican oregano
salt to taste

Saute onions until soft and translucent, add the rest of the ingredients and saute for a minute more until the flavors are blended. Cool and use as filling. This is really delicious even if I say it myself!


FH said...

My kids love Chicken Quesadillas, easy to adapt to vegetarian too, good one ms. Are you sending this to DK for her AWED-Mexico? Would be a great entry!:)

ms said...

Hi asha, Thanks for stopping by. Actually Im trying to teach myself mexican food by doing a series on Mexican food. I have a long way to go!

Deepa Kuber said...

Quesadillas are my fav. 1st time at ur blog, u have a good collection.. Btw Thanks for visiting my blog and for leaving a comment.

Sagari said...

what a delecious looking quesadillas

ms said...

Hi anjali and sagari, thanks guys!