Quesadillas–the perfect marriage of heaven and earth, where the basic, simple tortilla meets the ecstasy of cheese. If you can find the right cheese, that is… So, where do you find great Mexican cheeses in the US? If you can’t find Oaxaca Cheese or Manchego, what can you use instead? What about Monterey Jack or Cheddar as a substitute?
In this episode I interview the fabulous Joe Yonan (who just came out with an equally fabulous cookbook!), who gives us a lot of cheesy advise.
Would it shock you to know that you don’t technically need to stuff cheese inside for it to qualify as an authentic Mexican quesadilla?
Oaxaca-style Mushroom and Cheese Quesadillas
Quesadillas de Hongos con Queso Estilo Oaxaca
1 tbsp safflower or corn oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
½ cup white onion, chopped
1 chile serrano, or jalapeño, finely chopped (seeding optional)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 lb fresh mushrooms, white or baby bello, or any that you prefer, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh epazote leaves, chopped, optional
2 tsp kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1 cup Oaxaca cheese, shredded (also good with mozzarella, muenster or monterey jack)
Corn tortillas, store bought or homemade
Salsa of your choice
Heat the oil and butter in a large sauté pan, set over medium-high heat. When butter starts to sizzle, add white onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the serrano chile and chopped garlic and cook until fragrant, for about a minute.
Incorporate the thinly sliced mushrooms and cook them for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Their juices will begin to come out and after a couple minutes they will begin to dry out. When they do, mix in the epazote leaves if using, and salt, stir and cook for another minute. The mushroom mix should be moist, not wet or too dry, which will be perfect for filling the quesadillas.
Heat the tortillas on a hot comal or dry skillet over medium heat for about 20 seconds. Place a tablespoon or two of the mushroom mix and a tablespoon or two of the shredded cheese (depending on how chubby you want them!) on the center of each tortilla. Fold it as if it were a turnover and press down. Cook for about 2 minutes per side, until cheese is completely melted and tortillas have begun to crisp a bit on the outside.
Serve with a side of a salsa of your choice.
GUAJILLO CHILE SALSA
Salsa de Chile Guajillo
Makes about 2 cups
3 guajillo chiles, about 1 oz, stemmed and seeded
1 lb roma tomatoes, or about 4 or 5 tomatoes
1 garlic clove, peeled
¼ cup white onion, roughly chopped
¼ tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp Kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1 tbsp safflower or corn oil
Toast guajillo chiles for about 20 seconds per side over an already hot pan or comal set over medium low heat. Be careful not to burn them or they will taste bitter.
Place toasted chiles, tomatoes and garlic in a pan covered with hot water and simmer for about 10 minutes until the guajillos are softened and tomatoes are cooked through. Place the chiles, tomatoes and garlic in the blender with about ½ cup of the cooking liquid, the onion, oregano, cumin and salt and puree until smooth. Strain the sauce.
Heat oil in a sauce pan set over medium high heat. Once hot, pour in the sauce, careful because it will jump a bit, and simmer for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until the sauce thickens and seasons. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Once cooled down, the sauce may be refrigerated for a couple weeks.
Plantain and Refried Bean Quesadillas
Quesadillas de Plátano Masa con Frijolitos Refritos
Makes 6 to 8, 5″ quesadillas.
Place the whole plantains in a large pot filled with boiling water. Simmer, partially covered, for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are thoroughly cooked. Remove from the water and let cool. Peel the plantains, slice, and place in a food processor along with the sugar. Process until smooth. If the dough seems to soft and runny, you may add some all purpose flour to thicken it a bit. You may also let it sit in the refrigerator, covered, for a half an hour so it will harden too.
Make round balls of about 1 to 2″. Press in between plastic rounds in a tortilla press or roll with a roller until you get a flat disk of about ¼”. Place about a tablespoon of refried beans right in the center and fold like a turnover. Press down along the edges so they will be tightly sealed.
In a large deep skillet set over medium heat, heat enough oil to have about an inch high. About 3 to 4 minutes later, when it is hot but not smoking, insert the quesadillas a few at a time. The oil should be bubbling around the quesadillas as you do. Let them fry, about 2 minutes on each side until nicely tanned and lightly crisped. Don’t let them brown too much. Remove them and place on a paper towel to drain excess of oil.
Serve with your favorite salsa.
Ham and Cheese Sincronizadas with Flour Tortillas
Sincronizadas de Jamon con Queso
12 flour tortillas
Safflower or corn oil, optional
½ lb Mexican manchego or Chihuahua cheese, monterey jack, muenster, or light cheddar grated
½ lb or about 6 to 12 slices ham or turkey
Avocado slices, optional
Salsa of your choice
Heat a sauté pan or a comal over medium heat. You may add a light coat of oil to the pan if desired. Top as many tortillas as will fit into the pan or comal with a generous amount of shredded cheese and a slice of ham or turkey. Cover with a second tortilla. Toast until the bottom tortillas begin to achieve a nice tan and some freckles and the cheese begins to melt. Flip over and toast the other side. I like to wait until the cheese oozes out and crisps a little! Transfer to a plate and slice in half or quarters.
Serve with a salsa of your choice and slices of ripe avocado on the side.